Ex-F1 Champion hits out at Mercedes, backs George Russell’s frustration

George Russell finished fourth at the Mexican Grand Prix despite having qualified second and having topped FP2 and FP3.

George Russell and Mercedes will look back on last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix as a massively missed opportunity, after the Germans went for a far too safe strategy at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Russell looked strong all weekend at the venue in Mexico City and was predicted to be the biggest threat to Max Verstappen after qualifying second.

Alas, it wasn’t to be, as the 24-year-old found himself in fourth by the exit of Turn Three on the opening lap, after running wide at the first corner before being squeezed at the next couple.

The British driver would end up sitting in fourth for the entirety of the race, with the field being unable to run closely due to the thin air making overheating an issue for many.

READ: Mattia Binotto makes admission about Ferrari engine after Mexico GP struggles

Tyre degradation was also remarkably low, which resulted in Mercedes’ conservative strategy ending their bid for a first win of the season.

The Brackley-based team opted for a Medium-Hard strategy, whereas Red Bull went for an aggressive Soft-Medium.

Russell and Lewis Hamilton were both unhappy with the Hard compound, with Russell having asked to be switched to the Softs during his opening stint.

The team denied him the chance, with Mercedes’ strategy arguably being too defence minded.

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It meant Russell was unable to really attack on the Hard compound, ending any hope of a rostrum.

Russell was heard complaining over the radio several times in regard to the team’s strategy, something 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has supported the Brit for doing.

Villeneuve believes Russell and the team had “nothing to lose”, with the Canadian having been “surprised” by Mercedes’ strategy.

“For years Mercedes has had the best car and they have never really been cornered,” Villeneuve wrote in his formule1 column.

“They were defensive on Sunday, where Red Bull was aggressive and went on the attack. When you defend, your choices are never decisive and you only win when the other makes mistakes.”

“In the first half of the race it was clear that the soft tire survived despite the full tanks and a green track. It has been the case for fifty years that as the race progresses you get lighter and the track gets more grip. So I was surprised by the choice for the hard tyre.

“Lewis Hamilton still had speed, so why not? But for George Russell the frustration was great: he asked several times to continue driving and go for the soft tyre. He had nothing to lose anyway.

“Everyone could see what Ricciardo was doing on the mediums, that was clearly the right compound. Maybe the Mercedes team should just watch television instead of all their computers. 

“Red Bull won the race by starting on the red tyre, Verstappen was not bothered by the dirty air and despite a difficult-looking car drove very strong to win.”

READ: Ted Kravitz receives support from unlikely person amid Max Verstappen tensions

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff actually apologised to Russell and Hamilton after the race, with the Austrian admitting that the team simply “got it wrong”.

“We didn’t think that the medium would go to the end, so we just got it wrong,” Wolff told Sky Sports. 

“We discussed whether the soft and the hard was a viable one stop strategy and we thought it was never going to go so soft medium wasn’t even on the radar.”