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BRDC F4 champion Russell denied maiden F1 win after sublime drive

Monday, December 07 2020

2014 BRDC F4 Champion George Russell seized his opportunity with F1's leading Mercedes-AMG Petronas Team, dominating much of last night's (Sunday) Sakhir Grand Prix before being denied a sensational first win only by late misfortune.

The Kings Lynn born ace, who won five races with Lanan Racing on his way to the BRDC F4 crown, was standing in for Lewis Hamilton at the Bahrain International Circuit following the seven-time world champion's positive COVID-19 test last week. Russell was drafted in from Williams Racing due to his long-term relationship with Mercedes, and had to overcome a number of challenges, not least of which squeezing into smaller racing boots to fit in the cockpit.

Undeterred by that discomfort, and having to work with a new team throughout the race weekend, Russell topped the opening two practice sessions on Friday before missing out on a maiden pole position to regular Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas by just 0.026s.

Russell asserted his authority in the race though, taking the lead at turn one and controlling things comfortably from the front. The Brit managed an early safety car period too, and the first pit stop phase to look completely at home at the head of the field. 

A later safety car period, ironically caused by an off-track moment for Russell's Williams stand-in Jack Aitken, brought Russell's first taste of misfortune. A radio problem led to the wrong tyres being fitted to his car and left him behind his teammate, needing to cut through the field. This he began to do in fine style, the highlight a superb move around the outside of Bottas on the outer loop section of the Sakhir circuit, in F1 use for the first time this weekend.

Before Russell had a chance to catch the race-leading Sergio Perez, however, he suffered a further dose of bad luck when the team noticed he'd developed a slow puncture. This forced a late pit stop, removing him from contention. Despite the obvious disappointment, Russell got his head down and drove hard over the remaining laps to salvage his first F1 points in ninth place, with a bonus for fastest lap.

Photo: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1/LAT