George Russell defends Mercedes handing Lewis Hamilton huge advantage

George Russell's retirement in Australia was his first since the 2022 British Grand Prix.

George Russell will be leaving the Australian Grand Prix wondering what could’ve been, after the British driver led the opening stages of the third round of the 2023 F1 season, only for a shock power unit failure to bring his race to an early end.

After staggeringly qualifying on the front row, Russell made an exceptional start and overtook George Russell into the opening corner, elevating the Mercedes driver into the lead of the race.

Russell remained at the front for the opening few laps before coming under attack from team-mate Lewis Hamilton, resulting in Mercedes calling the 25-year-old in for an early pit-stop.

Whilst the idea seemed like a good one, Russell suddenly faced an immediate setback after a red flag was flown, due to Alex Albon having crashed.

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It meant Russell’s rivals, including Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the front, were able to change tyres during the stoppage, costing him several places.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff apologised to Russell the second the red flag was flown; however, Russell respected that it wasn’t the team’s fault.

“Sorry George that’s screwed us. We can still go to the front, podium of better,” Wolff said to Russell over the team radio.

“Yeah it’s not your fault, it was a good call,” replied the Briton.

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In the end, Russell’s race wasn’t really affected by it, as he later retired due to a power unit failure, something he labelled as a “shame”.

“Yeah, I guess when it’s not your day, it’s not your day, and pretty disappointed initially with the decision to red flag the race,” Russell said.

“Everything we’ve done this weekend has been good: qualifying was great, the start was great, the restart was great, the strategy decision was the right one. It’s just such a shame to be stood here right now.”

Whilst the race didn’t go how he planned, Russell can certainly take plenty of positives away from the Albert Park Circuit, with Mercedes having seemingly made a solid improvement.

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“I think Red Bull’s a little bit out of the picture at the moment. We need to continue focusing on ourselves,” added Russell.

“We’ve improved the car a lot, even though we haven’t brought any upgrades to the car, and we’ve got to take satisfaction in that we were clearly the second-fastest team this weekend.

“But then I also take pride in the fact that the performance we did throughout has been pretty spot on these last two weekends, in terms of everything we as a team and I felt as a driver we could have done, we did. And I guess that’s all you can do sometimes.”