George Russell lost his first race win at the Sakhir Grand Prix mainly due to a catastrophic mix-up in the Mercedes garage and some bad luck.
When Mercedes pitted both of its drivers under a Safety Car on lap 59 they fitted tyres meant for Valtteri Bottas to George Russell’s car and had to re-fit Bottas with his old tyres. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff explains how the mix-up happened.
“What happened is that when we called the pit crews out, they get a call on the radios and bring the right tyres out,” the Austrian said.
“One side of the garage, George’s side, didn’t hear the pit call. We had a radio that didn’t function, and then the wrong guys with the wrong tyres came out.
“We knew immediately when Valtteri didn’t have his tyres, we knew that Valtteri’s tyres were on George’s car.
“We fitted Valtteri’s old hard tyre that we just took off to the car again, and we knew we needed to pit George again.”
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However Russell rebounded and was on the verge of passing Sergio Perez to take the race lead, when he suffered a tyre puncture.
“The slow puncture probably came from him having to run off the line so many times in order to overtake.
“As for the race win? I don’t know. I think our planner said he would catch up to Sergio and maybe DRS would have helped us, but I’m not sure [if he would have won].
“Sergio drove a brilliant, brilliant race, and deserves the race win because we made too many mistakes, and were unlucky with the puncture,” concluded Wolff.
The FIA announced it is investigating Mercedes for fitting the wrong tyres on Russell’s car.
“When car number 63 pitted for a tyre change at 21:16hrs, the team fitted on the front axle tyres allocated to car number 77,” read the FIA statement.
“Car number 63 left the pit lane and returned after one lap in order to fit a correctly allocated set of tyres.
“As this is not in compliance with Articles 24.2 a) and 24.3 e), I am referring this matter to the stewards for their consideration.”
As Russell technically used more sets of tyres during the grand prix weekend than allowed by the rules, he faces a possible disqualification.