Hungary pole-sitter Russell left with 'mixed emotions' after P3 finish, as he reveals sympathy for Leclerc
After taking his maiden pole position in Formula 1 on Saturday, George Russell was forced to settle for third place in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix. And the Mercedes driver admitted to feeling “mixed emotions” after missing out on his first win in F1, claiming that he and his team had done everything right.
Russell started the race on the soft tyre and made a fast getaway, staying ahead of the Ferrari duo of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc for the first stint. However, after switching to the medium tyre, he could not fend off the faster Leclerc for long.
After stopping for another set of medium tyres, Russell was undercut by eventual winner Max Verstappen. And while he was able to overtake Leclerc, he was powerless to defend from his team mate Lewis Hamilton – forcing him to settle for a second consecutive third-place finish.
“Definitely mixed emotions but incredibly tricky conditions out there. We had rain drizzling throughout the whole race at different points,” said Russell. “And when I was on the grid at it was drizzling and we were on the soft tyres, I thought this was great because everyone around me was on the mediums!
“It was a bit tricky at the beginning and we pulled a big gap to the cars around, and I thought it was great. Unfortunately, the rain kind of slowly stopped, the medium runners caught us up and we had to react and pit quite early, which was the right decision.”
He added: “But then it put us really on the back foot, that last stint when the rain came again on the very old medium tyres, the track was getting cooler, rain was there. It was impossible to defend against Lewis and really tricky to hold off Carlos off on the brand-new softs. But as a team we did everything for the right reasons, it was just a shame how things panned out.”
After a tough start to the season, Mercedes have looked to be back in form in recent races, scoring double podiums at the last two Grands Prix in France and Hungary. And while Russell says his team are making progress, he believes they must understand why they are lacking speed compared to Verstappen and Leclerc.
“I do think Charles and Max do still have the upper hand on pure pace, and I’m sure Red Bull were just cruising out front,” said Russell. “Obviously Max and I were on identical strategies, so we need to see where they were quicker than us. And he probably had a tenth and half or two-tenths on me and then obviously Ferrari going on to the hards, which was a bit of an odd call.
“In these conditions, there was no way the hards were going to work, so I do feel for Charles because he’s been doing a stellar job all season, but that’s racing and as a team we capitalised on it.
“Amazing job by the team, pole position [on Saturday] and double podium [on Sunday]. We’re making progress and I’m proud of the work everybody has put into it. We will come back to the second half of the season with a reset, refocused and will try to fight for some victories."