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