Mercedes says that George Russell’s retirement from last weekend’s British GP was “preventive” and done to avoid a potential engine penalty.

Russell led the field from pole at Silverstone and protected his lead for 17 laps until succumbing first to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton and then to the McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri.

But six laps after his switch to the Intermediate tyre as light rain set in, Russell was called back to the pits by the Mercedes pitwall and ordered to retire the car.

It was a heartbreak moment for Russell in his home race, but one that was foreseen by his team after an issue was diagnosed early on in the W15’s water system, as Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin explained

“Unfortunately, we knew that we had an issue relatively early in the race, so we were tracking this from the first stint,” said Shovlin, speaking on Mercedes’ post-race debrief on YouTube.

“We didn’t know that it was going to be terminal, but it’s all linked to a leak that was in the water system that was causing the pressure to start to drift, and ultimately when we stopped the car, it was to protect the power unit.

“So we knew that we were never going to finish the race. What you don’t want to do is finish the race and destroy the power unit, then you’ll be looking at a penalty possibly later in the year.

“So it was preventative, but there was no way that we were going to get to the chequered flag.”

Although Russell struggled to remain in contention for a spot on the podium in Silverstone’s changing conditions, the Briton’s strong pace in the dry earlier in the race led many to believe that he would have been once again a force to be reckoned when everyone reverted to slicks.

Shovlin stopped short of predicting exactly where Russell would have finished had he been able to go the full distance but he suspected that, at the very least, fourth place would have been on the cards.

“With a race like that, with the changing conditions, it’s quite hard to say this is where we would have finished,” he noted.

“If it had been a dry race start to finish, looking at how George got off the line, how he was able to build a gap, I think he would have had a pretty straightforward afternoon.

©Mercedes

“But if you take the point where we actually decided to retire the car, we were on intermediates, George was in P4, he was closing in on Max, so that was looking good.

“And to get him on the podium, he would have probably had to overtake Max at that point realistically, because we called the stop lap correct with Lewis when we went to dry tyres.

“So I think earlier it might have been a bit too damp. So as I said, minimum of P4, but there would have been a shot at it [a podium] if he could have passed Max on track on the inter.”

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