A deafening collective cheer echoed from King’s Lynn all the way to the Sakhir Grand Prix paddock after Mercedes stand-in George Russell took a marvellous lead into turn one for the first time in his Formula 1 career, although the fairy-tale finish many hoped for was simply not meant to be.
In a race of heart-wrenching attrition for the Brit, Russell dropped from a well-deserved first to a blighted ninth. Through no fault of his own George was subject to power issues, pit stop troubles and punctures- ultimately robbing him of a victory.
Whilst his meagre haul of just three points may seem to be no consolation, the race marks his first ever world championship points in Formula 1 and also proved to be an opportunity for the Russell to show his mettle amongst the top dogs- with George pulling off dazzling overtakes and unrelenting comebacks all throughout the race.
Russell is indubitably heart-broken, but he understands the immense magnitude of what he has just done with little experience in the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team W11. He feels ‘proud’ of the job he and the team have done, but he admits having the victory ‘taken away’ feels ‘absolutely gutting’.
“I don’t quite know how to sum up the mixture of emotions I’m feeling at the moment. On the one hand, I’m proud of the job we did this weekend. I had a great group of people around me that was working very hard and diligently to get me prepared and ready for qualifying and the race. But today was absolutely gutting.”
“I’ve had races before where I had a victory taken away from me, but it felt like that happened twice today, I still can’t quite believe it. I had everything under control after the start and was managing the race, looking after my tyres and keeping the gap to Valtteri. Then we had that mess-up during the pit stop, I think there were some issues with the comms. That put us on the back foot, but I think we still could have won. And then the car was starting to feel a bit funny; I didn’t want to believe it was a puncture, I just wanted to power through, but that obviously was not an option.“
Still, George acknowledges the opportunity of driving the fastest car ever to race in F1 was a great privilege- citing that he was ‘very proud’ to given such a responsibility.
“I’m gutted, but also proud of what we have achieved and very happy to have had the opportunity to drive this car this weekend.“
In his typically mature and selfless manner, Russell was quick to congratulate fellow racer Sergio Pérez on his first ever grand prix victory. The Mexican put in a stand-out performance to wrestle his way up to the top step of the podium after first-lap contact saw him dead last.
“Congratulations to Checo, he’s been around for a long time and is a great driver and deserves to have a victory on his tally.“
George Russell reinvigorated the passion of F1 fans not only in the UK but across the globe, and his fierceness and determination in the face of failure surely foreshadows a long and illustrious career at the top in Formula 1. With speculation regarding both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s future at the Brackley-based outfit, it’s almost certain Russell will be the frontrunner for perhaps the most coveted seat in motorsport.