'It's just such a shame' says Mercedes' Russell after retiring with power unit issue in Australia
George Russell was left wondering what could've been after briefly leading the 2023 Australian Grand Prix, falling to seventh after an unfortunate call to pit, and then retiring from the race with his Mercedes engine spitting flames.
On the opening lap and after starting P2, Russell pried the lead off pole-sitter Max Verstappen, but the Mercedes driver took the chance to pit during the Lap 8 Safety Car that was deployed for Alex Albon's crash. That Safety Car soon turned into a red flag, dropping Russell down to P7 for the resulting race restart – and giving Russell’s rivals an advantage as they were able to change their tyres ‘for free’ under the stoppage.
Although he made it up to P5 on the restart, Russell's recovery went up in flames on Lap 18 and he stopped on track with a power unit issue.
“Yeah, I guess when it’s not your day, it’s not your day, and pretty disappointed initially with the decision to red flag the race,” he said.
“Everything we’ve done this weekend has been good: qualifying was great, the start was great, the restart was great, the strategy decision was the right one. It’s just such a shame to be stood here right now.”
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However, Russell said he took "pride" in Mercedes' start to the season that has seen them score points with both drivers in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while team mate Lewis Hamilton was running second to Max Verstappen when Russell bowed out at Albert Park.
“I think Red Bull’s a little bit out of the picture at the moment. We need to continue focusing on ourselves," said Russell. “We’ve improved the car a lot, even though we haven’t brought any upgrades to the car, and we’ve got to take satisfaction in that we were clearly the second-fastest team this weekend.
“But then I also take pride in the fact that the performance we did throughout has been pretty spot on these last two weekends, in terms of everything we as a team and I felt as a driver we could have done, we did. And I guess that’s all you can do sometimes.”
Russell's retirement in Australia was his first since the start of the 2022 British Grand Prix. Since then, he has taken four podium finishes and a race victory, failing to score points just once.