An emotional George Russell looked devastated after a brilliant drive in the Singapore Grand Prix ended up in a last lap crash that cost the Mercedes driver a seemingly certain podium, if not a chance of outright victory.
Russell had qualified on the front row alongside pole sitter Carlos Sainz, although he lost out in the first lap to Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari.
Russell was also passed by his own team mate, but was handed the place back when it was deemed that Lewis Hamilton had gone off the track to make the move.
Restored to third, Russell was subsequently back in second after the first round of pit stops. However he wasn’t able to pull off a pass on Sainz to take the race lead.
Instead the team opted to make an opportunistic pit stop under a Virtual Safety Car on lap 44 for fresh mediums, while Sainz, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc all stayed out on an old sets of hards.
Although the gambit cost them track position, Russell and Hamilton were soon swooping past Leclerc and bearing down on Norris. But just when it appeared he would surely take P2, Russell clipped the wall at turn 10 on the final lap.
“No words to be honest,” Russell told Sky Sports F1 after the race. “I think we were half a car’s length from winning the race, had I got past Lando when I had the opportunity.
“Up to that point it had been a fantastic race weekend,” he noted. “The car felt great, qualifying was great, the race was great, our strategy was superb, and we were bold and aggressive.
“Carlos was doing a great job backing the pack up and not allowing us to do the alternate strategy,” he said. “But if I’d been able to pass Lando, I am sure I would have been able to overtake Carlos.
“Unfortunately I missed that opportunity. I made a mistake by one or two centimetres on that last lap and clipped the wall,” he said. “It’s a mistake that has overshadowed my whole weekend.
“Such a long race, a physical race. Difficult to keep concentration,” he said. “The tyres were dropping off and you’re pushing the limits. It was a really challenging race.
“The last lap, just a millimetre lapse in concentration and it was game over. I’m just so sorry to the whole team,” he said. “But that’s how racing should be: you make a small mistake and you pay for it.
“It’s just heart-breaking after such a great weekend,” he sighed. “It was exciting out there and it’s heart-breaking to be standing here with zero points.”
“It was extremely unfortunate what happened to George,” contributed Hamilton. “We were pushing so hard to catch the guys ahead and our tyres were so hot. He’s been phenomenal all weekend and I know he will bounce back.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff felt that Russell deserved a podium today. “It was clear it was difficult to win the race if we were just static, so I said: ‘Let’s go for it, the data is robust’ and we went for it.
“In the end it was a podium for Lewis,” he said. “Would have been a good third and fourth, lots of points, but now I guess we lost 22 against Ferrari.”
Sky Sports F1 pundit Karun Chandhok said he felt for Russell: ““I’ve known George since he was 14 years old and I can tell you, he’s very hard on himself and he’ll feel the pain of that for a little while.
“The good news for him is that we go to Japan next week and it’s a chance for him to clean the slate and start again,” Chandhok added. “But that’s a bittersweet pill for him to swallow.”
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