‘He wanted an 11 out of 10’: Russell was in ‘Williams mode’ at start of 2022 Bahrain GP

George Russell ended the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix fourth after a disappointing qualifying result on the Saturday.

Mercedes have praised the efforts of George Russell in the Bahrain Grand Prix, affirming that the 24-year-old could not have extracted more out of the car than a fourth-placed finish having qualified ninth.

Russell ended qualifying on Saturday in Bahrain a second off team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes’ fears of an underperforming car proved true in the opening round of the season.

In the early exchanges, he passed Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen to climb up to sixth, and ended up fourth as the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez retired from the race due to reliability issues.

Ultimately, Mercedes had few complaints about his debut appearance having signed from Williams ahead of the 2022 season.

READ: ‘Charles made him look really silly’: Verstappen criticised for getting outsmarted by Leclerc in Bahrain

“George was in Williams mode early in the race. He wanted to get an 11 out of 10,” the Silver Arrows stated.

“Once he got into the rhythm he delivered what the car could do. At the end of the first stint he was on Lewis caught up and was as quick as he was in second. More was not possible from 9th on the grid.”

Hamilton went on to secure a podium finish after the calamitous end to the race for Red Bull, but they were a considerable margin slower than Ferrari and the Milton Keynes team on an evening in which team principal Toto Wolff affirmed that they were “a second slower per lap on the harder compounds.”

Chief trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin laments that there was an absence of strategical tricks up the Silver Arrows’ sleeve purely due to the fact that they were so far off the pace of the leaders.

Article continues below

“We couldn’t put pressure on Red Bull and Ferrari, and we didn’t really have any pressure from behind, so we were able to switch Lewis to a three-stop strategy quite early on,” he said.

“The strategy didn’t pay off for us because we weren’t close enough to the people in front.”

Verstappen had spent periods of the race battling away with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc having started from second as he attempted to use the undercut on two occasions to overtake the Monegasque.

The Dutchman went for three daring moves on the Ferrari, but was unable to make any of them stick against the Ferrari of Leclerc.

He recognised that he and his team had to try something different in a bid to neutralise the Scuderia’s obvious pace advantage last weekend, but concedes that their proficiency, coupled with one or two mistakes by him and his team, exacerbated the difficulty of the task.

“The Ferrari was three tenths faster on average,” he said.

“I didn’t have an optimal lap into the pits and the pit stop wasn’t perfect.”

Verstappen was audibly frustrated that he was not given license to push on his out-laps following his stops, adding after the race that he “could have been ahead twice” had he given it everything following his stops.

“Okay this is now two times I have taken it easy on the out lap and I could have easily been in front. I’m never, ever doing it again!” he exclaimed on the radio.

Ultimately, Red Bull broke a track rod when dropping Verstappen’s car down following his last stop, and he experienced a “heavy” steering wheel as a legacy, making his evening an incrementally tough one.

He then retired due to a reliability issue, which Dr Helmut Marko has since confirmed was fuel related, after a late Safety Car caused by a fire on Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri.

It seemed at the time to put Leclerc’s lead in jeopardy, but he was imperious on the restart, going on to take the win from team-mate Carlos Sainz who, despite securing the best result for the Maranello squad since 2019, was disenfranchised by his lack of pace compared to the Monegasque.

READ: Russell worried by Haas ‘pace advantage’, expecting ‘lonely’ racing with Hamilton

“I have to find out why Charles is taking so much time from me. I only drove at his level in Q2 and Q3,” he explained.

Mercedes will be aiming for better fortunes on the power-hungry Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend as the teams head to Saudi Arabia for the second round of the 2022 season.