George Russell believes that the Hungarian Grand Prix would have served his strategy if the threatening rain had come to the start of the Formula 1 race as predicted.
The Mercedes driver, who started from his maiden Formula 1 pole position, chose to start the Hungarian race on the soft tyres, while the Ferraris just behind him chose the medium tyres.
With a heavy rain shower forecast for the start of the race, Russell says he “rubbed his hands” to take advantage of the soft tyres, which are better suited to slippery conditions.
Max Verstappen “simply too fast” for Mercedes
But as the rain eased and eventually failed to materialise, he was held in check by the Ferraris and forced to pit earlier, leaving him later in the race on older medium tires and without a chance against team-mate Lewis Hamilton stayed.
“It was clear from the start that it was going to be a difficult afternoon because there was rain in the air the whole time. Normally when you’re on pole and it’s drizzling you’re not happy, but I was on the soft tyres I was rubbing my hands when I was out,” says Russell, who ended up third.
“I had a really good start and the first four laps were really good too, which gave me an advantage over Carlos [Sainz] could expand to three seconds.”
George Russell: Hamilton “had much better pace in the end”
“Unfortunately, it then stopped raining, so the medium tires got better. But we still had a good first stint. We then pitted early both times to pick up Max [Verstappen] and to cover the Ferraris, but in the end Max was too quick for us today.”
“That put us in a very tricky position in the last stint on the medium tyres. I was struggling a bit and my engineer said there were 25 laps to go and it started to rain and the temperatures dropped.” according to Russell.
After being overtaken by Verstappen during the second pit stop, Russell also had to give up second position to his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who was running on the soft tires in the last stint.
“Lewis did a fantastic job and had much better pace at the end. He also had a very strong middle stint,” said Russell. “I think as a team we can be very proud. We did everything right for both of us and as a team we have to give ourselves the best chance to fight for victory. Unfortunately it didn’t go according to our expectations today, but as a team we did we did everything right.”
Mercedes team boss Wolff: Russell is a champion
It wasn’t quite enough with the first Formula 1 victory, but Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has words of praise for Russell: “George is a coming champion and he was in all junior categories and in Formula 3 and Formula 2 a champion as a rookie, and we would never have put him in a Mercedes if we hadn’t believed he could be a future world champion.”
His fifth podium of the season has seen Russell move up to fourth in the drivers’ standings, two points ahead of Carlos Sainz. The gap to championship leader Verstappen is now 100 points.