Russell frustrated to lose “comfortable” P3 after mistake in greasy Monaco track

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George Russell believes his off-track excursion as the rain hit at the 2023 Monaco GP cost him and Mercedes an “almost guaranteed” P3 after a collision with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez meant the Briton lost time and earned himself a 5-second time penalty for an unsafe rejoin.

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

The Briton ran in fifth place for most of the race after some of the front runners pitted, and was never really in contention for a podium position until rain hit the streets of Monte Carlo late on. With the two drivers directly ahead of him – Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly – making their first stops a few laps prior to the rain, that left the one-time grand prix winner in prime position to take advantage of the situation by making one less pit stop and maintaining P3.

Russell was one of the drivers that stayed out on their starting tyres until the late rain arrived, and was one of the first to change to the intermediate tyres on lap 54. The Briton was setting good pace as he got his tyres up to temperature, but it would soon prove to no avail.

As Lance Stroll slid off the track in Mirabeau, Russell said he lost focus due to the yellow flags and followed the Canadian down the escape road. Russell found reverse and made his way back onto the track, but he was hit by Sergio Perez and was later given a 5-second penalty for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner.

Speaking to selected media outlets after the race, Russell expressed his frustration at missing an “almost guaranteed” final spot on the podium, and explained how a lack of concentration due to a yellow flag meant he lost the car in the way he did:

“It was an exceptionally boring race until the rain came down,” he said. “It sort of came out of nowhere as it wasn’t on the forecast.

“[I am] really kicking myself, because P3 was almost guaranteed after not pitting [for another set of slicks].

“I came out [of the pits], there was a yellow flag, and as soon as I touched the brakes I locked up and followed Stroll up the escape road. That’s probably a lesson that actually when you’re not on it, and you are not focused, you make those mistakes.

“Probably if there wasn’t a yellow flag there I would have been focusing more and I wouldn’t have gone off and cost the team a comfortable P3.”

The contact with Perez meant a sizeable hit on the rear end of the Mercedes, but the Briton said the damage “sorted itself out” over the laps, and at one point he was even going faster despite missing some mechanical grip:

“It definitely damaged the car a bit,” he said of the contact with Perez. “I wasn’t sure if I was gonna be able to continue, but it kind of sorted itself out as the laps progressed.

“I think the toes got bent at the rear end [and] I felt really uncomfortable in the car, but we were the quickest on track during that period, so I don’t really know what was going on. As soon as I knew we were safe to Charles [Leclerc], I just brought it home.

“It’s a very disappointing end, when you do everything right for 98% of it, but that one tiny mistake costs everything.”

The aftermath of the dramatic incident saw a somewhat unusual appearance of Toto Wolff over the radio waves, calming Russell down and reassuring him they were still in a good position despite the incident. Speaking after the race, Wolff said it is “nothing new” and that he just wanted to give “emotional” support to his driver whilst the race engineers were busy with tyre strategies:

“I’ve done that before. It’s just encouraging or calming a bit. Sometimes drivers don’t see whether they are quick or not,” said Wolff. “I think that when you’re sliding all over the place and you have no grip, and it’s terrible in terms of grip and you have somebody telling you that you’re actually pretty fast.

“And I’m doing this because the race engineers are flat out, looking at tyres and strategy, and from that respect I’m just trying to support from, let’s say, the emotional side.”

Russell said the message from the boss came after he kept “venting” his frustration with himself over the radio, and how it wasn’t clear to people from the outside just how costly his mistake would prove to be:

“I was venting my frustration at myself, nothing really more than that,” he explained. “As a driver, you sometimes want to get this frustration out of your body, and it’s maybe nit necessarily easy for everybody to understand why.

“I actually learned that my mistake wasn’t show on television until a replay after the race. I don’t think it was clear to many people that we were effectively P3 on track and lost it.

“A lot of people have taken to me to say ‘well done for P5!’, not realising that I actually made a big mistake that cost us a P3.”