George Russell claimed his third podium of the season in Azerbaijan after benefiting from the retirements of both Ferraris, and the Mercedes driver says that the team can not “keep relying on others’ misfortune” to secure results.
Mercedes suffered from severe bouncing throughout the F1 Azerbaijan GP weekend, alongside a lack of performance in the slow-speed corners and trouble working the tyres into the right temperature window quick enough.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton was seen slowly extricating himself from the car post-race in parc ferme whilst clutching his back, after suffering from worse bouncing than Russell due to a different set-up of rear suspension on the seven-time champion’s W13. This came after suggestions from team principal Toto Wolff in an interview with Sky Sports F1 that there were question marks over whether Hamilton could finish the race at all.
There were certainly question marks after the Baku weekend over whether Hamilton would be able to drive at this weekend’s Canadian GP, in what is the second part of a fly-away double header. He quickly took to social media to quash these rumours, but admitted to having serious physiotherapy in between.
Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly and Russell were those who spoke out the most on the porpoising and bouncing issue which has plagued the new era of Formula 1 technical regulations so far this season. The latter being a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association meant he voiced his opinion that changes must be implemented by the FIA soon, on behalf of most of the drivers.
The performances of Russell have been heralded as some of the best this season, comfortably outperforming his hugely successful teammate and being the only driver to finish in the top five at every Grand Prix this season, which excludes the Emilia Romagna Sprint.
After being congratulated by media, Russell bizarrely stated that the Baku podium was “not the third, to be honest” – pointing to the help received from Ferrari’s troubles. “I think P5 was the maximum we could have achieved on merit, and on pace, let’s say – but obviously this is a team effort, and you’ve got to be there at the end to pick up the pieces, score the points,” he admitted.
“And for us to show for all the hard work back at Brackley and Brixworth to deliver a reliable car and reliable power unit, and capitalise from others’ misfortunes, whatever you want to call it. I think the car has been feeling OK to drive [in Baku] to be honest. The balance is good. Just the challenge is just the bottoming, to be honest, I think it doesn’t matter what boat you’re in either, you’ve got the porpoising and you’re hitting the ground.
“And if you don’t have porpoising, you’re running the car millimetres to the ground, and you’re bottoming out. I think, yeah, I’m feeling it on the back at the moment. But nevertheless, as I said, we’ve got to keep on working hard to find more performance and understand what we need to do to unlock that.
“And yeah, I don’t think we’ll have any major updates or anything to try in Canada, but maybe for Silverstone, we’ll have a better idea,” summed up Russell. He is now only 17 points behind the previous championship leader Charles Leclerc, with Max Verstappen now 34 points ahead of Leclerc. Mercedes sit 38 points behind the formerly dominant Ferrari in the constructor’s championship.
“You’ve got to keep on scoring,” said Russell. “This is a championship where you’ve got the chance to score every single race and it doesn’t matter how fast your car is, if you’re not scoring those points, then your tally is not going to increase. So, as I said here, great work from everybody back at the factories to deliver a reliable car – but we can’t keep on relying on others’ misfortune, and we need to find more performance.
“And that’s what everyone’s trying their hardest to achieve,” summed up Russell. Team boss Wolff speaks incredibly highly of Russell, who joined the team as permanent race driver at the start of this season, but has been managed by Wolff for the majority of his racing career and even took part in the 2020 Sakhir GP in place of Hamilton. He believes Russell’s pace is a crucial part of picking up the pieces when rivals ahead falter.
“He’s very solid in bringing top positions in and he’s been on the podium a few times, and Lewis has been, and that is when your car is not super competitive with the front guys maximising those points,” Wolff noted. “It’s important to consolidate and make sure that you are no worse than third, but equally you see the situation with Ferrari, if they drop the ball often we are there.”
Here’s Lewis Hamilton and Toto Wolff on pain in Baku