until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

The giant-killing that inspired Russell’s failed ‘hero moment’

by Edd Straw
3 min read

George Russell’s slick tyre gamble in Canadian Grand Prix qualifying “could have been a hero moment” according to Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, and was inspired by his famous third place on the grid for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix.

Russell’s “high-risk, high-reward” gamble backfired when he spun and backed lightly into the barrier at Turn 2, ensuring that he was unable to improve on his final Q3 run. That left him eighth-fastest, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton opting to stick with intermediates and ending up fourth.

Russell said the move was down to his desire to fight for pole position, emulating the strategy he used at Sochi last year where he was the first to switch from intermediates to slicks in drying conditions – doing so even before he’d posted a Q3 banker lap.

He also mentioned the Sochi comparison when he spoke to Wolff after the qualifying session.

“I want to fight for pole position, and I’m not here to settle for P3, P4,” said Russell. “I think we had a good car today.

“I saw the dry line appearing and it only takes one corner to let you down, and for me, that was Turn 1 and 2.

“It happened last year in Sochi when I was one of three drivers to go from inters to slicks, and I qualified P3 with Williams. So it’s high risk, high reward. It didn’t pay off today, but the race is tomorrow.”

Another factor that led Russell to make the call to switch to intermediates was how quickly the crossover from intermediates to slicks has happened in the past, particularly at Monaco last month.

But he underestimated the fact that the circuit was still more damp in some areas than others, notably through Turn 1/2 where he had his off.

“I was surprised in Monaco how quickly it transitioned,” said Russell. “I was surprised on other occasions how quickly it transitioned. It just takes half a dry line and everything changes.

“Half the track was totally dry. Another quarter of the track, there was a small dry line.

“And then the last quarter, which was Turn 1 and 2, it was just on its way. As I said, it just takes one corner.”

Russell also accepted that, with hindsight, he could have aborted the attempt at the end of the outlap and switched back to intermediates.

He suggested that would have allowed him to “probably get back up to P4”, but he was determined to attack.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Canadian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Montreal, Canada

He recognised the slicks would be difficult when on the outlap, and insists he had no regrets about the failed gamble given the potential upside.

“I realised that it was going to be very tricky,” said Russell of his outlap.

“I thought with a warm-up lap, that last lap may have been the one. But it’s not straightforward sometimes.

“I’m, glad I went for it because it could have paid off. At the end of the day, I’m P8. It’s not the end of the world.”

Wolff admitted that the strategy Mercedes used with Hamilton in terms of cooldown laps was not perfect and that Russell would have been at a similar level had he stayed on intermediates.

But he backed Russell for making the risky call.

“We are not in the championship fight and I think if we would have given Lewis a better strategy with a cooldown lap, we would have been further ahead,” said Wolff. “And I think George would have probably been in an equal place.

“But this is the moment where you can take risks and I am up for risk and up for ballsy calls.

“This is what he did and it could have been a hero moment. It wasn’t but I think you’ve got to go for it when you are where we are.”

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks