‘My mum was in tears’ – Russell reveals the emotional toll of missing out on Sakhir GP victory
George Russell has revealed that his mother and sister were left in tears after he lost out on victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix on his Mercedes debut last week, but maintained that he left the circuit with his “head held high” as he waits to find out if he will contest a second Grand Prix for the Silver Arrows this weekend…
Russell qualified second for the second of two back-to-back races in Bahrain, but swept into the lead ahead of team mate Valtteri Bottas off the line. He held that lead until Lap 63, only to see his hard work undone thanks to a Mercedes pit stop gone wrong, and a puncture later in the race. Ahead of this weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 22-year-old described the pain his family felt watching the race on television.
“My mum was in tears, bless her, afterwards, and my sister as well,” he said.
“We live this together, this sport, and it’s so passionate, emotions are so high and this was my first opportunity not just to win but to actually score points and that was such a big difference, and having that taken away from us not once, but twice, was difficult.
“Having time to reflect on that weekend I’ve left with my head held high and [I'm] proud of the job I managed to achieve last weekend.”
The full-time Williams driver doesn’t yet know if Lewis Hamilton will have recovered from his bout of Covid-19 in time to return to his race seat this weekend, but Russell is preparing as if he will race for the Silver Arrows in the season finale.
“I’m unsure to be honest; we’re still waiting to get Lewis’s [test] results back, so yeah for now we are going ahead as planned and if Lewis returns with a negative result, he will be back in the car,” he said.
“[I've] not [done] a track walk but all the prep as normal. This morning I was working through with the engineers, with Bono [Pete Bonnington, Hamilton's race engineer] and the guys, and treating everything as if I will be driving the Mercedes this weekend.”
If Russell does race for Mercedes this weekend, he explained that he would tune the W11 more to his liking, rather than Hamilton’s, to get the most out of the car.
“Last Friday was all about learning, taking in all the information, learning the procedures and what have you,” he explained.
“This weekend, Friday will be about improving the car, tuning the set-up to my driving. I think my engineers have already understood my way of working, my way of driving. So we can try to tailor the car more to my needs as last weekend I was ultimately running with Lewis’s set-up, which is obviously a very good baseline, but I’m not Lewis, and I need slightly different needs to extract more from myself and the team.”
Russell scored his first World Championship points last weekend but, if he gets called up to Mercedes again, will be looking to put the heartbreak of Sakhir behind him in Abu Dhabi.