Monday, April 15, 2024

George Russell on Monza: “I think we’d have taken that result before the weekend”

The Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team finished fifth and sixth in the Italian Grand Prix last Sunday, with both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton taking five-second time penalties at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

Mercedes were the third fastest team at Monza behind Oracle Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari, so to bring home fifth and sixth was the best result possible, although neither driver made it easy on themselves by making mistakes that gave them penalties.

Russell ran fourth early on and defended well from Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez for the first stint, but once the Mexican was able to pass, he consolidated his fifth place. However, an error as he exited the pits saw him handed a penalty, with the Briton running off track as he ran down the inside of BWT Alpine F1 Team’s Esteban Ocon and was deemed to have gained an advantage in doing so.

“Fifth place was probably the maximum today and I think we’d have taken that result before the weekend,” said Russell.  “We’ve outpaced McLaren and Aston Martin here, but unfortunately Ferrari were just a step ahead of us here – and then Red Bull out front.

“They were so fast in the high-speed corners today, I just couldn’t keep Pérez behind any longer than I did in the early laps.

“It was a tough race because the degradation was high, but the long pit-stop loss just means that a two-stop strategy isn’t really competitive; that means a lot of time in DRS, but it’s not easy to overtake with such small pace differences between cars.”

Russell believes Mercedes will be more competitive when the FIA Formula 1 World Championship arrives in Singapore later this month at a track that suit the W14 much better than Monza did.

“I’m looking forward to heading to Singapore next,” Russell added.  “We were competitive there last year and I think that our car will be better suited to that circuit, so hopefully we can fight a bit closer to the front than we managed here.”

“The incident with Piastri was just unfortunate” – Lewis Hamilton

Team-mate Hamilton had a much tougher afternoon at Monza as he climbed from eighth on the grid to finish sixth, having dropped to ninth on the opening lap.

Hamilton ran an alternative strategy on Sunday, starting the race on the hard compound before switching to the medium for the final stint, and he made his softer, fresher tyres work to his advantage after his stop, including a pass quickly on Fernando Alonso.

His second overtake, however, saw him handed a five-second time penalty for contact as he appeared to drift into Oscar Piastri into the second chicane, with the McLaren F1 Team driver suffering a broken front wing as a result.

However, his passes on Lando Norris and Alexander Albon were much cleaner, and he had the pace in hand to draw away from those two drivers to ensure the five-second penalty did not cost him any places in the final result.

“Every point and position that we are getting through these races are incredibly hard-fought,” said Hamilton.  “We started on the hard tyre today and it was nice to be offset but difficult at the beginning and not so easy to follow in the DRS train.

“I spent a lot of laps following the McLarens, so I knew that I had slightly more pace than them in the first stint, and hoped I could get them on the second one. There was a big gap to catch after the stop, and I was worried my tyres would go off when I caught them, but fortunately theirs did the same.

“I cleared Alonso immediately after the stop, which opened things up and let me close them down; but the incident with Piastri was just unfortunate. I misjudged the gap that I had and it was totally my fault – I went and apologised to him straight after.

“So I think we maximised today, and now I’m looking forward to Singapore in ten days’ time.”

Lewis Hamilton finished sixth in Italy despite a penalty for colliding with Oscar Piastri – Credit: Wolfgang Wilhelm