George Russell missed out on a podium appearance at the end of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – but the Mercedes driver still walked away with the trophy for third place.
Russell crossed the line in fourth place behind Red Bull duo Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, and was satisfied with the outcome of one of his ‘strongest weekends’ in F1 to date.
After the podium celebrations concluded, Russell then found he had been promoted to third place because of a ten second penalty issues to Alonso for not serving an earlier penalty properly during the race.
“It was fun,” Russell said. “I was pushing flat-out at the end trying to get within five seconds of Fernando just in case, but I think he just had it covered.
“P4 for me, it’s been probably one of my strongest weekends in F1,” he reported. “Just pleased with the result, because I think we exceeded the potential of the car this weekend.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff felt the team could have done even better today: “I think both of our drivers under our guidance probably over-managed their tyres a bit, and we had a little more pace.”
Read also: Perez holds on for victory over Verstappen in Saudi Arabia
Asked if fourth had been what Mercedes had been expecting this weekend, Russell replied: “To be honest, not really. We knew I would be close, but we thought we were just on the back foot compared to Aston, compared to Ferrari.
“But clearly, we have made some small steps compared to Bahrain,” he acknowledged. “We know we have a long way to go, but we’re in an interesting phase as a team at the moment.
“We are making some changes at the moment to try and close that gap to Red Bull and hopefully it won’t be too long before we make a step forward.”
Although he was pleased to hear that he had been promoted to third place in the final classification, Russell admitted to mixed feelings about the circumstances.
“I don’t know why Fernando got a penalty. At the end of the day, he I think is the deserving guy to finish P3,” Russell stated. “That’s a harsh penalty for Fernando.”
Alonso’s original infraction was for not lining up on the grid properly. He served a five second penalty but race control deemed it hadn’t been done properly and added an extra ten second penalty after the finish.
“Ultimately I think he was a bit to the left, was that right? He gained nothing from this, perhaps a five-second is too much,” said Russell.
“In regards to his pitstop again, I don’t know what happened and why he received a further penalty exactly, but a ten second penalty is too extreme in that case again.
“I understand why these rules are there, we’ve got to stick within the guidelines, a little bit of common sense needs to be shown.
“It makes it a little bit frustrating for everybody,” he added. “There is a lot of conversations that were going on this weekend about which lines you can touch and which lines you couldn’t touch.”
Russell said he understood Alonso’s struggle to see the grid markings from inside the car.
“It is incredibly difficult. We are sat so low and to put some perspective on it, we only see the top four or five inches of the tyre so we cannot actually see the ground itself.
“It is really, really tough, so that is why I think in this regard we need to show a little bit more common sense,” he concluded. “I will take the trophy, for sure, but Fernando and Aston deserve the podium.
“I’m not complaining too much about taking home a trophy though, and we will take the extra points!”
Alonso on the other hand felt bad that Russell had missed out on the podium appearance. “It’s not fair for George, because I guess the Mercedes sponsors would love to be on the podium.
“For us it’s good. We have [sponsors] Aramco, we have the picture,” he smiled. “But I think it’s not fair for George, because if he really was third in the race, he should enjoy the podium and not me.”
Russell’s team mate Lewis Hamilton finished just behind but missed out on benefitting from Alonso’s penalty by 0.337s, meaning he remained in fifth place in the results.
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