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


NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”


James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”