George Russell was pleased with how Mercedes performed at the Dutch GP in Zandvoort on Sunday. During the race, Russel and his teammate Lewis Hamilton started on medium tyres, while both Red Bull and Ferrari opted for soft ones. That led to a one-stop strategy for Mercedes compared to the 2-stop one Ferrari and Red Bull adopted.
The introduction of the virtual safety car due to Yuki Tsunoda's accident set up a grandstand finish. Red Bull's Max Verstappen had to pit once again for his second stop and would have come out behind Hamilton and Russell in the absence of VSC.
During the subsequent safety car period, Russell's decision to pit for soft tyres made the difference, while Hamilton opted to stay out on medium. That helped the younger Englishman secure P2, while Hamilton finished outside the podium places in fourth.
Talking about the race, Russell was ecstatic how it panned out, calling it the best of his young F1 career.
In the post-race press conference, Russell said that Mercedes had nothing to lose, so they went 'flat out' for ther first victory of the season, which was eventually not to be. He said that starting on the medium was a bold decision, which could have been vindicated had there been no VSC or safety car period.
"I think we had nothing to lose; we were pushing absolutely flat out and we knew that was our only opportunity to fight for victory," said Russell. "And, you know, pre-race, in our strategy meetings, we said, we need to be bold in our decisions to be able to fight for victory. And I think, starting on that Medium, it was clear that the others were going to be doing a two-stop."
He added that it was 'fun' to hold out against Verstappen for as long as the two Mercedes could, which made for the 'most enjoyable race' of his career. Russell said:
"And, as I said, we just absolutely went for it. And when we saw Max in our sights, that was really exciting. It was probably, for me personally, the most enjoyable race I've ever had in Formula 1, just being able to push so hard for so long on such an exceptional circuit as well. I think it was really quite fun."
"There's no doubt we've got the race pace to be able to win" - George Russell
When asked if Mercedes now have the race pace to win, George Russell sounded optimistic. He added that if they had started in the top four, the team could have had their first race of the season.
"There's no doubt we've got the race pace to be able to win," said Russell. "Absolutely sure of that. And had we been starting P2/3/4 we probably could have won the race today."
He said that qualifying has been issue, as it's difficult to win races from P6 and P8, as Mercedes do not have the quickest car this year. Russell said:
"And, ultimately it’s going to come down to our qualifying performance on a Saturday. If we continue to qualify P6 and P8, as we have done in the last two race weekends, we're going to really struggle to win a race. But we need to find a bit more magic in qualifying as we showed in Budapest."
Russell is now only 13 points behind second-placed Charles Leclerc (201) in the championship standings and is a potent contender to finish P2 this season. Meanwhile, Verstappen (310) is zooming his way to back-to-back championships.