Formula 1 Racing

Russell hits back at ‘mistakes under pressure’ F1 critics

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR24

A steely glint enters Mercedes driver George Russell’s eyes when broaches the subject: does he make too many mistakes when the pressure is on to win Formula 1 races?

It’s raining outside – the Barcelona paddock doused all day. Russell himself is a mix of dark and light: a huge black Mercedes overcoat sits above equally massive, marque-monogrammed white trousers.

After he answers, the rain will clear – never to return that weekend in Spain. Russell will banish the memories of his two place-costing Canadian Grand Prix offs and clash with Oscar Piastri, after leading the early stages from pole. He’ll have a starring drive in the Spanish race, taking a shock lead, battling leaders Max Verstappen and Lando Norris hard, then engaging team-mate Lewis Hamilton in a gripping intra-Mercedes contest.

He’ll lose but does so with aplomb. Next time out in Austria, he’ll be in the perfect position to capitalise when Verstappen and Norris collide – a second GP win collected.

“I have no need to respond to those people [who say I crack under pressure],” Russell begins, before doing exactly that. “Because I’m focused on my own job. I could drive one tenth off the pace for 70 laps in a row and I wouldn’t make a single mistake.

“[In] 2022 I didn’t make a single mistake in the whole season, but I wasn’t pushing myself the way I’m pushing myself now. And the way I’m pushing myself now has allowed me to out-qualify my team-mate eight times out of nine races this season [it’s 9-2 in GP qualifying only post-Austria] and allow me to be ahead of him in most of these races.

“I could drive one tenth off the pace, not make a single mistake, and still finish third [in Canada], and it looks like a flawless race from the outside. But knowing within I had a tenth on the table, I’d be kicking myself for not pushing myself to the limit.

“So, people can say what they want. I’m pushing myself above and beyond. And maybe overstretched slightly because I’m trying to…”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR24

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Russell tails off. At this point, it’s worth remembering how in what was a very consistent 2022 campaign overall, he did biff Valtteri Bottas and Mick Schumacher on his way to 14th in Singapore that year and his part in the dramatic start crash at Silverstone. Plus, in the context of the…

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