George Russell will have left the Mexican Grand Prix feeling like a huge opportunity was missed, after Mercedes arguably went for the wrong strategy at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
After qualifying second and having topped FP2 and FP3, Russell was one of the big favourites for victory, or was at least regarded as someone who could challenge Max Verstappen for it.
It soon became apparent that this wasn’t the case, as Russell fell to fourth after the opening sequence of corners, as a result of being stuck on the outside at Turn One, before having no room at Turns Two or Three.
Russell dropped behind both Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Pérez, who were much more aggressive than the 24-year-old.
Fourth is then where the former Williams driver would go on to finish, after it soon came to realisation that the drivers couldn’t follow closely enough to overtake.
After the race, Russell revealed that he was aware his team-mate was on his inside, resulting in him not being “too aggressive”.
Russell is also probably correct in saying that had it not been for the poor start, he “probably” would’ve finished behind Verstappen.
“I knew I wouldn’t have been able to overtake Max on the outside, but having Lewis on the inside I didn’t want to be too aggressive – obviously being my team-mate,” Russell explained to reporters after the race.
“Ultimately, that cost me and caused me to lose two positions. So ultimately if I managed to maintain position, I probably would have finished second today.”
Russell went on to explain that it was his line at Turn One that cost him the podium, but that he would’ve approached it differently if it wasn’t for Hamilton being alongside him.
“I think it was more in turn one, to be honest, I would have ordinarily just chopped across,” he explained.
“Or in turn two, I would have ran the driver wide. But that’s way the game works sometimes. I’d like to think it would have been the same had it been the way around – maybe, maybe not. I’m not too sure.”
The British driver will most likely have been relieved to have gotten through the first sequence of corners, let alone the entire race, without a collision.
Russell hit Carlos Sainz on the first lap of the United States Grand Prix and hit Mick Schumacher at the Singapore Grand Prix, with the Mercedes driver admitting that it was because of this that he took the opening lap “too cautiously”.
“I’ve had a bit of a scrappy last three races,” admitted Russell.
“Too many incidents, too many mistakes. That was probably a factor of taking it too cautiously. There’s a balance in there somewhere.”
Putting the start to the side, Mercedes arguably made a strategic error on both cars, by starting them on the Mediums.
The Germans went for a Medium-Hard strategy, which turned out to be the more conservative option, unlike Red Bull who went aggressive.
The Austrians went for a Soft-Medium strategy, as a result of tyre wear being remarkably low for the entirety of the race, with the only issue having been some graining.
Starting on the Softs also gave the Red Bull’s better grip off the line and allowed them to get up to speed quicker.
Russell asked for the Softs the entire race, after wanting to run his first stint deep into the race before a late switch to the softest compound.
Daniel Ricciardo performed this strategy to a tee, after climbing from outside the points to seventh in the final 20 laps.
Toto Wolff apologised to both drivers for the strategy being wrong, something both Russell and Hamilton appeared to know very early on during their stint on the Hards.
“It would have also been interesting to see how we performed had we started on the soft and gone to the medium,” Russell said.
“Or even if we extended the medium and went to the soft at the end – that was what I was pushing for in the car. Everything’s easier in hindsight.”