George Russell took advantage of a massive opportunity and dominated, Sunday, at Bahrain. Even after a miscue by his team on pit road cost him the lead, he climbed back through the field and ate away at Sergio Perez‘s lead. It was his race to lose.
Suddenly, debris punctured his left-front tire.
He couldn’t put it into words.
“I’ve had races where I’ve had victories taken away from me, but twice?” He said. “I just can’t believe it.”
Even as Russell rallied back to score his first career points finish, the sting of his lost chance at victory remained.
Russell put on a performance reminiscent of the driver he subbed in for, Lewis Hamilton. He led 58 of the 87 laps and turned the fastest lap of the race on Lap 80 (55.404 seconds).
“I gave everything I had,” he said. “I was managing the race at the start. I felt confident, comfortable in the opening laps, just managing the gap to Valtteri.”
Russell lost the lead under the second safety car period, when his team put Bottas’ tires on his car.
“It was an incredibly late call to pit, as obviously, the safety car came out seconds before I came into the pit lane,” he said. “Obviously, we had our tires meddled up.”
Back to green on Lap 69, Russell powered around Bottas on the outside through Turn 6 and overtook him for fourth in Turn 7 on Lap 70. He used a DRS boost to pass Lance Stroll in Turn 4 on Lap 72 and passed Esteban Ocon in Turn 4 the next lap.
Russell had significantly fresher tires than Perez, and the gap reflected it.
By Lap 75, he cut the lead to 2.5 seconds. He was bound to catch Perez in the closing laps, if not for the puncture.
“Yeah, that’s racing,” he said. “It’s a team sport. We’re all in it, together. Sometimes, a driver messes it up, and I have once or twice thus year in the Williams. Sometimes, it does get away, and we learn from these things.”
He took solace in what a great run he had, as well as scoring his first career points.
“Incredibly proud of what we have achieved and happy to have had the opportunity,” he said.
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