A visibly-emotional George Russell said he felt as though he had “let myself and the team down” after the Mercedes driver’s thrilling late pursuit of victory ended with a crash into the barriers on the final lap of a dramatic Singapore Grand Prix.
In a breathless end to the race as four drivers vied for victory – including both Mercedes’ after second pit stops for newer tyres – Russell was hounding second-placed Lando Norris but tagged the wall on the entry to Turn 10 and went straight on and out of the race.
The Briton’s ultimate sights had been on the next car ahead, Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who was staging an expert rear-guard action out front but would have been vulnerable to losing the win to the Mercedes man had Russell got past Norris in time.
“I think we were half a car’s length from winning the race,” Russell told Sky Sports F1.
“Had I got past Lando when I had the opportunity, I think we would have been able to get past Carlos.
“Then just the last lap, a millimetre lapse of concentration and game over. So just sorry to the whole team.
“It was a really challenging race, the tyres were dropping off and you are pushing the limits. That’s how racing should be, you make a small mistake and you are bitten for it.
“It’s heart-breaking after such a great weekend – the car has felt great, qualifying was great, the race was great, we were bold with the strategy.
“I feel like I let myself and the team down. It’s tough but we will come back.”
Mercedes have no regrets on strategy gamble | ‘We took the risk’
Having qualified on the front row next to the polesitting Sainz, Russell dropped behind the other Ferrari of Charles Leclerc at the start – and also briefly behind his own team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who had to give the place back for going off track – but regained his grid spot after a Safety Car triggered the first round of pit stops.
Russell then ran close behind the Ferrari until Mercedes used the appearance of a Virtual Safety Car to cede track position with both their cars and gamble on switching to the new sets of medium tyres they had kept back from earlier in the weekend.
On their return to the track in fourth and fifth, Russell and Hamilton were immediately much faster than the leaders, quickly re-passed Leclerc, and then caught up the closely-matched top two to set up a stunning chase over the closing laps.
And while the strategy ultimately didn’t even result in regaining the second place that Russell had vacated, Toto Wolff said the team had been right to go on the attack for what would have been their own first victory of the season.
“Super that Lewis is on the podium. He had a brilliant race and and had pace at the end,” said Wolff to Sky Sports F1. “Just a shame for George because he worked hard for that.
“It was so difficult to win the race if we were just static. So, we said let’s go for it and we just went for it and in the end it’s a podium for Lewis and that’s great,” he said.
“I don’t think we would have been able to win (by staying out during the VSC), that’s why we took the risk. We knew worst case it was third and fifth, best case the win.
“When we came out with several laps, it (the data) showed first and second.”
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