Russell says first Mercedes podium and second-place in the championship is ‘pretty crazy’
George Russell took his first podium for Mercedes and second in the drivers’ standings with a P3 finish in the Australian Grand Prix – the Briton later admitting that he was surprised to be in that position, given his team’s deficit to Red Bull and Ferrari.
Russell qualified P6 behind team mate Lewis Hamilton but capitalised on Sebastian Vettel’s Lap 23 crash (below) by pitting when the Safety Car emerged. The former Williams driver conceded that his new team didn’t have the pace to earn a podium on pace – but praised Mercedes for their continued reliability.
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“Credit to the team at Brackley and Brixworth because obviously we want more performance and we are a step behind Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of pace, but you’ve got to be there at the end to pick up the points – and that’s what we’ve done on a number of occasions now,” he said.
“This weekend [we were] the fifth-fastest team behind these guys [Red Bull and Ferrari] and McLaren and Alpine, and currently standing P3 on the podium, and P2 in the championship, is pretty crazy.”
The 23-year-old added that the timing of the Safety Car was fortunate as it allowed him to pit without losing considerable ground to his rivals, including team mate Hamilton who finished P4.
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“We obviously had a bit of fortune there but it’s part of the game, that’s part of the sport. Sometimes it goes your way; sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve been on both ends a number of times before and that’s just part of motorsport.”
Russell also brushed off implications that Mercedes had made gains on Red Bull and Ferrari – both teams having suffered one DNF apiece on Sunday in Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz – but said results such as this podium will only help them in the future.
“I’d love to say we made a lot of progress but we’ve got to look at the lap times and we haven’t closed the gap at all to these guys to the right of me [Perez and Leclerc] and we know we’ve got a lot of work to do.
“And I have faith that we’ll get there,” continued Russell. “We know there’s potential in the car and we have a lot of work to do to extract that performance. It won’t happen overnight or in the next race but I do think in time we’ll get there. For the time being, if we get these results, it’s keeping us in the mix.”
Not only is Russell second in the standings, 34 points behind Leclerc, but Mercedes are second in the constructors’ championship with a 10-point lead over Red Bull heading to Imola.
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