George Russell admits Ferrari ‘caught us by surprise’

George Russell ended the Italian Grand Prix in third, while Sir Lewis Hamilton finished in P5.

Mercedes’ George Russell was immersed in the incredible feeling of standing on the Monza podium last weekend.

The Briton went into the Italian Grand Prix weekend having scored his sixth podium of the season in Zandvoort the weekend previous, and there were questions as to whether Ferrari might fall back into Mercedes’ clutches.

In the end, the Scuderia had strong pace, particularly in qualifying, and Charles Leclerc took pole position ahead of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, with Sergio Perez in fourth.

Three of the top four had penalties though, as did Russell’s team-mate, Sir Lewis Hamilton, who initially qualified fifth, so Russell started second behind Leclerc on Sunday.

READ: Max Verstappen caught flipping off George Russell at Monza

The 24-year-old was passed by Verstappen early on, and there was a potential threat from Sainz towards the end when a late Safety Car was deployed, but race control did not have enough time to restart proceedings.

Russell crossed the line in third as Verstappen beat Leclerc to the win, earning Mercedes’ 13th rostrum appearance of the 2022 campaign.

Walking onto one of the more unique podiums in the pinnacle of motorsport and experiencing the immense atmosphere created by the tifosi was a feeling Russell will seldom forget.

“Certainly, standing on the podium at Monza is a really special feeling and I’d say [part of] a driver’s bucket list is to be standing on the top step at Monza, [it] would be really special,” he told Sky Sports.

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“It kind of gave me goose bumps up there, but the race was pretty uneventful. Definitely wasn’t our strongest race of the season by far, car wasn’t feeling great.”

The Briton did not think Ferrari would perform as well as they did last weekend.

“We lost quite a bit of performance since FP1 on Friday and we don’t really know why, but I think the biggest thing was the pace of Ferrari surprised us,” added Russell.

“We expected Max and Red Bull to be competitive, exactly how they were this weekend and how they were in Spa. 

“But Ferrari caught us by surprise, so that’s why we couldn’t really fight for that P2.”

Further, Russell did not feel he had the same performance once he changed from the Softs to the Mediums.

“I think it was tough on all tyres, but I think when we look back the softs was our most competitive stint,” he explained.

“We were sort of within arm’s length of the Red Bull and Ferrari at the beginning after the first 20 laps.

“Put the hards on, tried something different but it was just uncompetitive and it just wasn’t very fun to drive.

READ: ‘Oh wow’: George Russell and Max Verstappen amazed by Lewis Hamilton

“And it was kind of just trying to bring the car home because it was very on edge, inducing a lot of mistakes.

“It’s not that fun when you can’t really lean on the tyres and push the car, but as I said on the radio on my in-lap, it was one of these podiums where we’re scoring podiums when the car’s off the pace. We’ve got to take the positive from that.”

Ferrari now lead Mercedes by 35 points in the battle for second in the Constructors’ Standings.