Alternate strategy to Lewis Hamilton: George Russell reveals if he thinks Mercedes made ‘right decision’

Mercedes racer George Russell finished third in Hungary as his wait for his elusive first Formula 1 win continues.

It was a bittersweet day for George Russell in Hungary after he finished the race third having taken his maiden pole position on Saturday.

The 24-year-old came up with a tremendous lap at the end of qualifying to steal pole away from Carlos Sainz, and be started the race on Softs, with Sainz and team-mate Charles Leclerc behind on Mediums.

Russell held off the threat of the Spaniard in the opening stint, before Leclerc jumped his team-mate in the pit stops and found away past Russell in the second stint.

The Briton went long on Mediums in the middle stint, while Ferrari made the bizarre call to bring Leclerc in, responding to a stop by Max Verstappen, who bolted on another set of Mediums after recovering from 10th to fourth.

READ: Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell laugh at Ferrari

Leclerc was put onto Hards, the much slower tyre, and this left him vulnerable to Verstappen as the Dutchman passed him, before Russell did the same after his stop.

The reigning champion cleared Russell when the Mercedes driver made his final stop onto another set of Mediums, and Sir Lewis Hamilton, who had started seventh, passed him late on after going for Softs.

However, Russell held on for a podium finish in third after holding off Sainz, while Leclerc finished sixth behind Sergio Perez.

Max Verstappen went on to cruise to the win by 10 seconds from Hamilton.

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Russell had been hoping his grippier Softs would help him after rain began to fall ahead of the race, but that died down.

In the end, Russell and his team did everything they could to get the win, but things did not work in their favour on Sunday.

“Definitely mixed emotions but incredibly tricky conditions out there, we had rain drizzling throughout the whole race at different points,” he explained in the media pen after the race. 

“And when I was on the grid at it was drizzling and we were on the soft tyres, I thought this was great because everyone around me was on the Mediums.

“It was a bit tricky at the beginning and we pulled a big gap to the cars around, and I thought it was great. 

“Unfortunately, the rain kind of slowly stopped, the medium runners caught us up and we had to react and pit quite early, which was the right decision.

“But then it put us really on the back foot, that last stint when the rain came again on the very old medium tyres, the track was getting cooler, rain was there. 

“It was impossible to defend against Lewis and really tricky to hold off Carlos off on the brand-new softs, but as a team we did everything for the right reasons.

“It was just a shame how things panned out.”

The Silver Arrows’ race pace has looked much better in recent rounds, evidenced by their beating of Sergio Perez in France, before having the upper hand on Sainz in Budapest.

However, Leclerc and Verstappen remain extremely tough to beat out front.

“I do think Charles and Max do still have the upper hand on pure pace, and I’m sure Red Bull were just cruising out front,” explained Russell. 

“Obviously Max and I were on identical strategies, so we need to see where they were quicker than us. 

“And he probably had a tenth and half or two-tenths on me and then obviously Ferrari going on to the Hards, which was a bit of an odd call.”

Russell, like many others, is struggling to comprehend why Ferrari veered away from their original plan by putting Leclerc onto Hards on a damp and cold track, so he sympathises with the Monegasque.

“In these conditions, there was no way the Hards were going to work, so I do feel for Charles because he’s been doing a stellar job all season, but that’s racing and as a team we capitalised on it,” he affirmed.

The Mercedes man is given plenty of optimism by the team’s second consecutive double podium finish, but he wants to go one better by claiming a win in the latter part of the season after the sucker break.

“Amazing job by the team, pole position and double podium, we’re making progress and I’m proud of the work everybody has put into it,” stated Russell.

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“We will come back to the second half of the season with a reset, refocused and will try to fight for some victories.”

Ferrari’s nightmare day in Hungary, and Mercedes’ double podium, means that the German side are now just 30 points behind the Scuderia in the battle for second in the Constructors’ Championship.