(Motorsport-Total.com) – And then it was suddenly only 36 points after the lead in the championship: George Russell flourishes with his second podium of the season at the Spanish Grand Prix and a markedly improved W13 for the secret candidate in the driver classification, provided that Mercedes , as the British themselves say, must find “a lot of pace” in the coming races.
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On lap 24, George Russell and Max Verstappen fought an exciting duel
“I’m just proud to be able to bring third place home, especially since the last couple of laps were so difficult,” Russell said. In recent rounds, the Mercedes command post instructed its two drivers to drive particularly fuel-efficient, otherwise there would be a significant risk of failure.
After the race, however, it was found that both Russell’s and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes had water leaks. “It was a survival race, and luckily the distance to the back was great enough,” Russell said.
Russell: The Barcelona podium was more honest
In the end, the Briton could take advantage of Charles Leclerc’s engine failure, without which he probably would not have gotten on the podium: “You just have to be there if there is something to pick up,” says Russell, who already had the podium in Australia after the technical defect. by Max Verstappen could pick up.
“I feel like this was more unadulterated here because we were probably halving the distance ahead,” Russell said. Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff went even further and said Lewis Hamilton would have been able to win if it had not been for the clash with Magnussen in the first place.
“There is still a lot of performance that we can find. So far this season we have only solved problems, but I think we have solved our problems now and we can finally focus on getting more performance out of the car. . ” Russell.
Toto Wolff praises Russell after the Verstappen duel
“We are six races behind, but I see no reason why we still can not catch up.” Before the Barcelona race, the Briton was 45 points behind Charles Leclerc, the then championship leader, but the Ferrari driver’s failure and the change in lead in the drivers’ position allowed Russell to reduce the distance to first place by nine points.
So far, he has not only proved that he can keep up with the sport’s great in the team-internal duel against Hamilton, but also in the duel against Max Verstappen during the race in Spain.
The Dutchman, who had been struggling with DRS issues for a long time, appeared to have passed Russell on the inside in turn one on lap 24 before the Mercedes driver countered with a sensational late braking maneuver on the outside.
Team manager Wolff is full of praise: “The way he defended himself and let Max starve from the outside so he could not go inside in turn four, it was first class. He always puts the car in the right place, and with a car that was a second and a half slower at that point. “
Russell: “I’m here to win”
“We have two incredible drivers. They’re the right guys to get our car back together,” Wolff is confident. “It was a pretty bold fight,” Verstappen must admit. “Looking back on it now, of course I can laugh, but at the time I was pretty frustrated.”
“I enjoyed it a lot,” Russell says of the duel. “Max and I rode each other for the first time in 2011 and it was nice to have that opportunity again. And of course I’m here to win, so I did not want to make it easy for him.”
In addition, the Briton was able to leave Verstappen, although he had some concerns with the car at the time: “In the duel I had to cope with the tires, the car overheated and at the same time I tried to drive as fast as possible to position to keep.”
Was Russell’s turn 3 maneuver too hard?
“I still felt a little sorry for him because he had problems with DRS and he was clearly the faster man today. Still, I think it was hard and fair race. And that’s what we all do in Formula 1.”
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For Verstappen’s racing engineer Gianpiero Lambiase, however, it seems to have been a little too difficult: “I’m not sure if he gave you a car width in place,” he reported on the radio, after Russell saw the Dutchman in turn three in the next episode of the duels on the flank starved.
“Fortunately, nothing happened,” Verstappen said after the race about the maneuver. “There was some grip on the outside, so it was ok. It was hard running. I was also in George’s blind spot on the outside, so I do not think he really knew where I was.”
“It’s also hard to leave a full car width in this fast turn because you automatically drive to the outside. So if I had been in George’s position, I would definitely have done the same,” said the world champion.
Russell calls for open dialogue with stewards
“It’s important that we’re allowed to drive that hard,” Russell said. “The rules say you have to leave a lane of cars, and I think I did.” As Formula 1 has new stewards, according to the Mercedes driver, it is still difficult to assess what may and may not be for the drivers.
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“It is quite difficult for anyone to understand what we have to do on the driver’s side and what is expected of us on the other side. We just need an open dialogue. I was also not aware that the incident was briefly investigated due to. I thought it was a tough but fair race. “
With third place in Barcelona, the Mercedes season has just begun: “I think we have started a new chapter as a team. We are definitely making progress and getting the points on a tough day that today feels great on,” says Russell.