Despite finishing last of the 14 drivers who crossed the line at the 2022 Singapore Grand Prix, George Russell insists Mercedes had a car that could have won on merit around the Marina Bay circuit.
The world champions arrived in Singapore with cause for optimism but Russell‘s hopes of a first F1 victory went up in smoke after a brake issue in qualifying and a new engine meant he started from the pit lane, while Lewis Hamilton could only manage ninth after he locked up in pursuit of Carlos Sainz and ended up hitting the barrier at Turn 7.
“Firstly, confidence restored that we fixed the car today and we had our normal pace,” Russell told reporters. “We definitely had a car this weekend that was capable of winning.
“Just a bit of a shame how this weekend has has unfolded. We were very, very fast today. I think, had it not been for that incident with Mick [Schumacher], we would have finished inside the top 10. Not too sure what happened there but it’s just the way Formula 1 goes sometimes.
“We’ve had such a great run a form as a team, I feel like we’ve been pretty flawless all season, but it was just one of those weekends that went against us.”
Early stop for slicks the wrong decision
Torrential rain delayed the start by over an hour and meant the track was damp at lights out, paving the way for the prospect of a wet-dry race under the lights. However, the humid conditions made the crossover point difficult to discern, especially with the penalty for crashing so severe.
Mercedes were first to blink, deciding the early gamble onto slicks was worth it given Russell‘s lowly position and despite his calls for a fresh set of inters.
While the 24-year-old believes it’s a reflection of the “trust” the team has in him, he admitted it was, in hindsight, the “wrong decision” at that stage of the race.
“I was asking to pit for a new set of inters,” Russell added. “I trust the team, the team trust me, they thought it was time to go and slicks and try something.
“Obviously at the time, it was totally the wrong decision but it did pay dividends later down the line, because when we had that safety car, at the restart I overtook three cars in one lap and was up to P11 before the incident with Mick.
“We had to try something but I think we showed we are making a lot of progress and that gives me optimism for the rest of the year.”
Formula 1 has a lot to learn
Overtakes were few and far between around Marina Bay, with many drivers at various points during the two-hour marathon stuck in queues and reliant on errors from those in front to make progress.
It’s been a feature of the new regulations and Russell has called on F1 bosses to improve the racing at venues that share similar characteristics to Singapore.
“On a circuit like this, Formula 1 cars are nigh-on impossible to overtake,” Russell said.
“I feel like Formula 1 has something to learn about these kinds of circuits where the only overtaking opportunities here and in Barcelona, the corner is too quick.
“You’re braking just after the 100 metre board into a 90-degree left. There’s enough space there [at Turn 7] to make it tighter in order to get better racing and better overtaking but I lunged from a long way back. If it had paid off, great, but it didn’t.”