Last-lap heartbreak for George at Singapore Grand Prix
After a top five finish for George at the Italian Grand Prix, the #63 driver, his teammate Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes AMG F1 Team arrived at the demanding Marina Bay Street Circuit for the Singapore Grand Prix.
In 2023, George recorded a P14 finish at the event, highlighting the unique sporting challenge presented by the track. He faced this challenge head on in 2024 and pushed for the victory until the bitter end.
Gaining pace throughout practice
Despite being impeded by the Red Bull of Sergio Perez during the first on-track session of the weekend, FP1 yielded the sixth-fastest time for George, three tenths away from early pace setter Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari.
In the most representative of the practice sessions – being held at night – George recovered from going wide at Turn 19 to end FP2 in third, best of the rest behind the scarlet cars.
The King’s Lynn driver went one better in the third and final practice session with the second-fastest time, just six hundredths behind Carlos Sainz.
Front row in ultra-close qualifying
George finished the opening qualifying session sixth, as the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll hit the barrier at Turn 19, bringing about the end of the session.
In Q2 he upped the ante by taking the top spot from Fernando Alonso and topping the timesheets for much of the session. In the final moments, Sainz retook P1 but George remained close behind in second as the session ended.
In the initial Q3 runs, George put in a purple first sector – the fastest of anyone – to claim the fourth spot.
Then, in the final runs, he put in another blistering purple sector, this time in the middle part of the lap, and was matching the pace of both Ferrari and the McLaren of Lando Norris.
George’s final lap catapulted him to a front row grid slot with second place, just seven hundredths behind pole-sitter Sainz.
Thrilling Singapore Grand Prix ends in disaster for George
Lining up on the front row for the first time since the 2023 Australian Grand Prix, George conceded a position to the fast-starting Leclerc on the soft tyres and then went wheel-to-wheel with teammate in the opening corners.
Eventually, Hamilton would give the position back having left the track on the exit of Turn 1, so George was back up to third behind Sainz and Leclerc. He quickly set about closing the gap by setting the fastest lap on the second tour.
With Ferrari driving a tactical, pace-limited race early on, George kept tabs on them through the initial phases of the race before the Safety Car was deployed on Lap 21. All the front runners pitted and with Leclerc held in his box by traffic, George re-emerged a net second place behind Sainz and Max Verstappen who was yet to pit.
As the Safety Car period ended, George piled on the pressure, getting past Verstappen at the end of the first racing lap after the restart.
From that point on, he ran close behind Sainz and at half race distance, the top four of Sainz, George, Norris and Hamilton were separated by two and a half seconds. Each of the front runners held their position though, as the high-speed game of chess unfolded.
A Virtual Safety Car deployment on Lap 44 presented an opportunity for Mercedes and they took it, double stacking for a fresh set of Medium compound Pirelli’s that they’d shrewdly kept in their back pocket during qualifying.
George exited the pits in fourth on Lap 45, and his first target was Leclerc some 15 seconds up the road. In just eight short laps, he’d reduced that deficit to one second and, astutely utilised the switchback manoeuvre at the exit of Turn 14 to move into third place.
Having overtaken Leclerc, George set his sights on Norris who was seven seconds ahead on Lap 54. With another four laps in the books, George had bridged the gap to the McLaren and nothing could separate the top four with a handful of laps remaining.
On Lap 59, George deployed the same switchback tactic, but Norris resisted on the run up to Turn 16, and with that, the Mercedes’ momentum was lost.
As the drivers reached the final lap, and with George’s overtaking opportunities dwindling with each corner, he clipped the wall at Turn 10 with his right-rear tyre sending him spearing into the barrier and out of the race.
A heart-breaking last-lap crash resulted in a DNF for George, denying him a well-earned podium in a race in which he looked a viable candidate for victory.
George Russell, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One® Team driver:
I am lost for words. I think we were half a car’s length away from winning the race today. If I was able to pass Lando (Norris), I am sure I would have been able to overtake Carlos (Sainz). Unfortunately I missed that opportunity. I made a mistake by one or two centimetres on that last lap, and I clipped the wall. It’s a mistake that has overshadowed my whole weekend. Up to that point, it had been a fantastic race weekend. The car felt great, and the team had done an incredible job. Our strategy was superb, and we were bold and aggressive. It was exciting out there and it’s heart-breaking to be standing here with zero points. Nevertheless, there are positives to take away. I will likely have a bad night tonight and even tomorrow morning. But I will put this behind me and come back stronger next weekend in Japan.