George Russell defends his ‘punt’

George Russell has failed to match Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the last few races of the 2023 Formula 1 season.

George Russell openly acknowledged that his strategy at the Japanese Grand Prix didn’t pan out as expected, leading to the order for him to allow Lewis Hamilton to pass. 

Despite initial frustration, Russell later conceded it was likely the right decision as he shifted his focus to the Constructors’ Championship.

Russell had adopted a bold one-stop strategy for the Suzuka race, diverging from the more common approach of multiple pit stops on a tire-hungry track. 

While he was running fifth in the final stages of the race, his tires were considerably worn, and both Hamilton and Carlos Sainz were closing in.

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Mercedes made the call for Russell to yield to his teammate Hamilton, fearing that Sainz might overtake both of them. 

Russell voiced his discontent over the radio but eventually complied with the team’s directive. 

Sainz managed to pass Russell soon after, but Hamilton held off the Spaniard to finish fifth, with Russell settling for seventh.

In hindsight, Russell admitted that the one-stop strategy was a gamble worth taking. 

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He remarked, “It was definitely worth a punt. 

“The three-stop was closer, or faster, than the one-stop was. 

“But the one-stop gave us a chance to be in P3 if there was a safety car or a red flag. 

“Ultimately, we did have a shot, but the end result was a fair representation.”

He explained his radio outburst as a means to release frustration during a challenging race. 

Overtaking was difficult, even for those with fresher tires, as evidenced by Oscar Piastri’s attempts to pass. 

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Russell added, “It’s easy in hindsight.”

With his performance at Suzuka, Lewis Hamilton closed the gap in the drivers’ championship, now trailing second place by just 33 points, following Sergio Perez’s failure to score points at the same race. 

George Russell, on the other hand, finds himself in a joint-seventh position in the drivers’ championship, tied with Lando Norris, who secured yet another podium finish.