‘We were a little bit quicker than expected’ – Russell seizes opportunity to take unlikely Baku podium
George Russell capitalised on Ferrari’s double DNF to secure a surprise podium for Mercedes in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the Briton admitting that the Silver Arrows had been “a little bit quicker than we anticipated”…
Mercedes have struggled with significant porpoising more than any other team on the grid this season – and that remained the case around the Baku City Circuit. They were third best all weekend, Lewis Hamilton admitting after qualifying that rivals Red Bull and Ferrari were in another league.
But on Sunday, their pace in race trim was better than their speed over one lap, and while they were never in contention for a podium on pure pace, they were strong and reliable enough to take advantage when race leader Charles Leclerc and his team mate Carlos Sainz retired, with Hamilton following Russell home in fourth.
“It’s always a team effort,” said Russell. “We’ve got to be there at the end. We would have loved to be a bit more in the fight. We probably weren’t as far away as we expected to be honest. We were a little bit quicker than we anticipated, especially compared to the midfield, so silver lining but obviously work to do.”
Russell maintains his record of finishing inside the top five in every race so far this season, three of which have been podiums, and is the only driver to have scored in every race and finished every racing lap this year.
“You’ve got to take the positives from every single situation,” he said. “We’ve been in the top five every single race with a car that’s probably not always deserving of that so as a team, we have fully maximised it. I can’t think of any event that we probably could’ve scored higher. That’s been brilliant from that side. We just keep on getting the points on the board, but ultimately, we need some more performance.”
Hamilton’s run to fourth, having started seventh, was one of his most combative and attacking of the season – and earned him the Driver of the Day accolade. But with the car bouncing so much, it was hard work.
“It’s... probably the most painful race that I have experienced and the toughest battle with a car that I have ever experienced as well,” said Hamilton. “I’m glad it’s over.”
He added: “It’s such a tough year. We’ve had this bouncing since the beginning, and it’s just not got any better. We had one race where it wasn’t really bouncing so much, and obviously Kevin [Magnussen] hit us then [in Spain]. I don’t know what to expect in these next races, but we’ve got to start making improvements.”
This was Hamilton’s first top-four finish since Australia, five races ago, but he has dropped further adrift of Russell in the drivers’ standings. He now trails by 37 points.