[The lessons Russell can take from his “two-centimetre” Singapore F1 mistake
“In the moment, you just want to curl up in a ball and be with nobody.”
So said George Russell moments after his race-ending trip to the wall at the Singapore Grand Prix, when a first Formula 1 victory of the season had been tantalisingly close to his grasp in the dying stages of a breathless encounter. The Mercedes driver had been unwavering in his pursuit of eventual race winner Carlos Sainz and ratcheted up the pressure following the safety car period at the end of the race’s opening third. It was, per Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, a “99.9% fantastic weekend” – but that final 0.01% tainted his otherwise stellar performance at the end.
With a front-row start, Russell knew he was on for a potential victory in Singapore. It didn’t matter that Sainz had got pole, and nor did it matter if he wasn’t able to mount an assault for the lead on the first lap, as Mercedes had an ace up its sleeve that it was particularly keen to play. Mercedes spent much of FP1 and FP3 running around on the hard tyres, ensuring it could save a set of mediums for Sunday’s 62-lap encounter. It wasn’t a particularly well-kept secret; the audience saw Mercedes’ strategists slide that ace under their cufflinks, and Russell bullishly drew attention to it after qualifying. Mind games? Misdirection? Or just naïveté?