George Russell denied first F1 win by chaos in pits, punctured tire

Russell denied first win
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

George Russell was denied his first F1 victory in the Sakhir GP by chaos in Mercedes pits and a punctured left rear tire.

Russell was set to enter the history books with an inaugural win. Ultimately that honor went to Racing Point’s Sergio Perez as he led a trio of drivers seeking their first F1 victories.

From the opening lap, Russell set out to prove he had the temperament to win a Formula 1 race. Many believed that all he needed was the right equipment and he was given as much when Lewis Hamilton tested positive earlier in the week for novel coronavirus COVID-19. Russell was tapped for the ride.

Starting second behind teammate Valtteri Bottas, he made a bold three-wide move to the inside of the first corner and secured the lead. The pass stalled Bottas’ momentum and stacked the field up behind him.

Racing for third, Perez was spun by Charles Leclerc sending the Mexican driver to the pits and seemingly putting an end to his race hopes.

That incident happened in Russell’s rear view mirror, as would most of the ensuing action on the track.

Russell pulled away from the field on the restart and was not challenged for the lead until a late-race incident changed the complexion of the Sakhir GP and ultimately proved to be his undoing.

On Lap 61 of 89, the Sakhir GP headline was all but written. Russell had an eight second lead over teammate Bottas and should cruise to an easy victory. No one else was even close the the pair of Mercedes drivers.

Ironically, it was a spin by his former car that set the stage for his undoing. Racing near the back of the pack in his F1 debut, Jack Aitken spun out of the final corner and sheared the nose off his Williams car.

F1 attempted to removed the debris under a virtual safety car, but could not find a sufficient gap in the action to retrieve the debris. That necessitated a full course caution.

Russell most recent stop came halfway through the race on Lap 46 when he exchanged medium compound tires for hards. The Aitken caution, as well as Russell’s massive lead and dominant car, provided an opportunity to dive into the pits for fresh medium compound tires.

Unfortunately. Mercedes made the choice to stack his and Bottas’ pits which caused them to mix up the tires and create chaos for both drivers.

As Russell pulled out of his stall, the mistake was discovered as they attempted to reshoe Bottas. Ultimately Bottas rejoined the action with old tires on his car and fell to eighth at the checkers.

Russell was brought back into the pits to fix the mistake. Had he not done so, Russell would have incurred a penalty for racing on mismatched tires. He reentered the race running fifth behind Perez, Estaban Ocon, Lance Stroll and Bottas.

Russell continued to prove his boldness in the right equipment. He made short work of Bottas in the first laps under green, passing the more experienced driver in the most twisty segment of the course. He was in second with 10 laps remaining and had Perez in sight.

Wearing racing shoes one size too small in order to fit in the cockpit of the car normally driven by Hamilton, Russell had the fastest car on the track. He cut the advantage to about two seconds when a puncture to his left rear tire brought him to the pits for a fourth time during the race.

Russell came out of the pits 14th among 17 cars still running.

The only thing remaining was to see if he could earn the first points of his F1 career. Russell continued to make bold moves and sliced his way to ninth in the final rundown. He scored three points for the finish.

In addition to his first points, Russell was awarded the honor of being the Driver of the Day after securing 48% of votes at


Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.