George Russell admitted he was surprised Sergio Perez took so long to overtake him at the 2023 Italian Grand Prix, after he enjoyed a 15-lap battle against the Red Bull driver despite racing the notably slower Mercedes.
Perez went on to finish second at Monza after qualifying behind Russell, while Max Verstappen took his record-breaking 10th grand prix win in a row, coasting to victory after battling past Carlos Sainz early on.
Russell finished 23 seconds behind Verstappen but was still able to hold Perez back for most of the first stint, while the Mexican also took his time to pass each Ferrari.
“I was surprised how long it took Checo to pass with the superior pace of that car,” Russell told media, including Total-Motorsport.com, after the race.
“They were so fast in the high-speed corners, we saw it yesterday, probably a factor into their better tyre degradation than the rest of us.
“But I was really pleased to hold him off for that long and felt good and confident under breaking into turn one.”
Russell: No mistake from my side in battle
Perez spent much of the race complaining over team radio as he struggled to pass Russell and the Ferraris, but the Brit insisted he was inch-perfect battling the Red Bull.
Russell went on to finish fifth, settling into a pretty lonely race after Perez finally overtook him.
In an entertaining Italian GP, Russell found himself over ten seconds behind the thrilling podium battle but well ahead of the dogfight between teammate Lewis Hamilton, the McLarens and Alex Albon for the minor points positions.
However, Russell finished the lead Mercedes for the first time since the Miami GP and said he had fun at Monza.
“Every fight is enjoyable, but it’s definitely more enjoyable when you’re the attacking car in a faster car than the defending car in a slower car,” Russell added.
“You know that you’ve got to really nail your breaking, nail every corner because if you don’t they’ll just sweep past you.
“And yeah, there’s something satisfying about it when you do manage to hold a car off like that for so long.
“So I take a small positive in that there was no mistake from my side in those laps but unfortunately the pace just wasn’t there today.”