George Russell felt Fernando Alonso deserved a podium in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, after the Aston Martin driver was stripped of his third-place post-race to the benefit of Russell.
Alonso took the lead off the line, but his race quickly went downhill from there, as he was awarded a five-second penalty for lining up incorrectly in his starting grid.
He then didn’t serve the full five seconds before Aston Martin started work on his car, so was awarded another 10-second penalty that dropped him behind Russell, though that didn’t become clear until after the podium ceremonies had finished.
“I was pleased to come home in P4 to be honest,” Russell said. “I think the penalty for Fernando was pretty harsh, they are deserving podium finishes today, but I’ll take an extra trophy. So I’m not complaining too much.”
And there were even more reasons to be cheerful for Russell, who was buoyed by Mercedes‘ performance in Saudi Arabia after they announced ahead of the season-opening Bahrain GP that their radical ‘no-sidepods’ concept had failed.
With the Red Bull dominance in Bahrain, that news seemed to count Mercedes out of competing for race wins in 2023, but Russell sounded optimistic after a better weekend in Jeddah.
“We know we didn’t make the right decisions over the winter and I think we can regain some of that performance quicker than you would do ordinarily,” Russell added.
“So everything’s not all lost, we’re still going to be fighting as hard as we can, we want to win races this year.
“We want to be in the championship hunt but equally we want to be realistic focus on ourselves and just get the fundamentals right for the long term.”
Russell explains why he refused Mercedes team orders
Russell was the better Mercedes driver across the grand prix weekend after comfortably outqualifying teammate Lewis Hamilton by four places.
In the race he seemed to have the upper hand, with Hamilton starting on the hards, but after an early safety car, Hamilton found himself behind Russell on quicker medium tyres and Mercedes wanted their cars to swap positions.
However, Russell ignored those orders and immediately started pushing, ending the race 6 seconds ahead of Hamilton.
“Obviously after the safety car I was on hards, Lewis was on the mediums so he had a bit more pace in the beginning, I knew my pace was coming at the end,” Russell said.
“But there was a little bit of confusion because I thought Fernando had a five-second penalty so, I didn’t want us both to be fighting between one another and we both lose out to Fernando.
“I wanted to manage our tyres, stay in tracking distance and then we could have a fair battle towards the end.”