Challenging Dutch Grand Prix promised much more for George Russell
Prior to Formula 1’s Summer break, George Russell displayed superb race craft to take home a double points finish at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Mixed bag in mixed conditions practice
Friday would prove to be a challenging day for George, who set times good enough for P11 and P14 in FP1 and FP2 respectively.
By Saturday, the King’s Lynn native had found his form and went second fastest on the Intermediate tyre in FP3, just three tenths shy of the fastest time in a rain-affected session.
Russell takes third in qualifying
Saturday’s rainfall continued into qualifying, but George didn’t let that dampen his spirits. He comfortably progressed to the second part of qualifying with sixth fastest time in Q1 and replicated that result shortly after in Q2.
The third and final part of qualifying was interrupted by two red flags that highlighted the treacherous nature of the drying Zandvoort circuit. For the first half of the session, George held the fourth-fastest time but was shuffled backwards as the track dried. In the dying moments of the session, the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team driver put in a stellar 1:11.294 lap to secure third on the grid.
Rollercoaster race ends with puncture
George got away from the line well but still had to fend off a Turn 1 challenge from Alex Albon in the Williams. He did just that but was unable to defend from Fernando Alonso who relegated George to fourth at the banked Turn 3.
With most front runners pitting in the opening two laps as rain began to fall, the start of Lap 3 saw George diving to the inside of Lando Norris at Turn 1 to take the lead of the race.
The Mercedes team’s jubilation was short-lived, however, as Sergio Perez – who had timed his switch to Intermediates to perfection – took the lead from George as track conditions worsened.
At the end of Lap 4, George made his way into the pits for Intermediates and re-emerged in P17.
Having made progress up to P15, he pitted again on Lap 11 to switch back to the Soft compound and dropped back to P18.
When the Safety Car was deployed on Lap 17, George took to the opportunity to pit once more, this time for the Hard Pirelli tyre.
Restarting the race from P17, George began scything his way through the pack at the expense of Valtteri Bottas, Charles Leclerc and Nico Hülkenberg.
With others ahead pitting, George was elevated further in the standings and a heart-stopping move around the outside of Yuki Tsunoda at Turn 1 earned him sixth place.
By the time the rain began falling again on Lap 61, faster Soft runners had made their way past George and he had dropped back to eighth. When he re-joined the race after pitting for fresh Intermediates that lap, he found himself in P10.
As Albon exited the pits on Lap 62, George utilised his warmer tyres to great effect and surged past the Williams at the exit of Turn 3. When the race was red flagged on Lap 64, George found himself in eighth.
The first flying lap following the restart saw George overtake Norris at the exit of Turn 3, but with five laps to go The Mercedes driver tumbled down the order having picked up a puncture. After pitting to remove the deflated tyre, George finished P17 in the Dutch Grand Prix.
George Russell, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One® Team driver:
"That was a tough one today – I went into the race expecting to fight for a podium and I ended up P17. We were expecting the rain to stay for just a few minutes, and it ended up being close to ten. It was ready for inters but I thought I could brave it out for another lap or two if it was only going to be short – but that’s not what happened. We’d rather have a fast car and a bad day than the opposite, but it was a missed opportunity today."
"At the end, I was side by side with Lando into the chicane at the end of the lap, then we had contact. It cost a few points and it was a shame because we had such a fast car today, then our decisions on the weather went against us. But there are still positives to take away from the base pace we showed. We knew this circuit could be strong for us – and looking to Monza, it’s a totally different beast. We will clear our heads, go in with some new ideas and the learnings from this weekend, and see what we can do."