Russell calls penalty for Perez clash ‘harsh’ as he bemoans missed podium opportunity in Austria
After a Lap 1 collision with Sergio Perez, the subsequent damage, penalty, and a slow pit stop, Mercedes driver George Russell was left recovering from P17 to P4 in Austria.
Russell had an eventful weekend, crashing out of Q3 along with team mate Lewis Hamilton, before copping a five-second penalty for a coming together with Red Bull’s Perez at the start of the Grand Prix. The resulting five-second penalty, plus a slow pit stop to change his W13's nose, and the damage he was carrying from the contact, saw Russell have to fight from 17th to finish behind podium-sitter Hamilton (P3).
“I feel like it’s a missed opportunity,” said Russell. “Obviously frustrating to have a sort of first-lap incident like that. I thought the penalty was harsh; I braked as hard as I could and I was steering as much as I could – I had Carlos ahead of me and Checo was on the clean line down the outside, and I knew as soon as he turned in we were going to make contact.
“So I was already on the limit of my car and the angle he was coming in, I couldn’t do more. To the letter of the law, I was in the wrong, because if the attacking driver on the outside is ahead, the guy on the inside needs to leave space – but as I said, from the second I braked, there’s nothing more I could’ve done because I was already on the limit of my car. So that was harsh.”
Russell explained that the consequences of the contact hurt his chances of scoring a podium, which Hamilton ended up securing for the team after Carlos Sainz’s fiery retirement.
“[The contact with Perez], that’s one thing, and then the damage also cost me probably 10 seconds at the start, of race time; it cost me another 15 seconds at the pit stop and put me in P17.
“So, yes, I don’t know. Long afternoon. Glad as a team we maximised the points, but I feel like there was an opportunity for me personally to be on the podium today.”
Russell also expressed surprise that Mercedes’ qualifying pace was better than their race pace, and admitted that the qualifying crash probably didn’t help their chances on Sunday.
“I think this is the first weekend of the season that our quali pace has been quicker than our race pace, and that’s sort of caught us by surprise a little bit,” he said.
“After qualifying we thought: ‘Yes, we’re in the mix here’. But that didn’t carry through into the race.
“So, we need to understand that; it’s obviously been a challenging weekend for us, the team. For the damage we incurred on Friday, the team did an amazing job to get both cars back out, but I’m sure the cars probably weren’t at their 100% potential given the circumstances.”