Mercedes radio failure robs Russell of potential F1 win.
George Russell. Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images.
William Shakespeare’s play, The Comedy of Errors became an apt summation of a Mercedes-Benz Formula One pit stop in Bahrain last Sunday.
Perhaps the comment made by team chief Toto Wolff to Sky Sports was far more succinct, when he said: “Overall for us it was a colossal **** up.” He added: “I know I’m not allowed to say that, but it was.”
After losing both Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on lap one, the two Mercedes’ were on course for a 1-2 result. With reserve driver George Russell leading from team-mate Valtteri Bottas, it was looking good for the Englishman, not only to score his first points in F1 but possibly taking the win.
Both Mercedes started on medium compound Pirellis until lap 46 when first Russell and later Bottas, changed to the hard compound. The pair led until a safety car deployment on lap 63 following an incident that left debris on the track, and then it all went wrong.
Mercedes decided to double stack the drivers with Russell first and Bottas right behind him in the pit box, and the pit stops were taking an inordinate length of time. Russell was eventually sent out on tyres meant for Bottas, who was left with no tyres, except the ones just removed, which were hastily refitted and he was sent on his way. Realising the error, Russell had to be recalled to fit his correct rubber and avoid a penalty, costing even more time.
Sergio Perez of Racing Point charged through from 19th and led the field but with the Mercedes of Russell chasing hard to within a couple of seconds. Then came the call to Russell that he had a slow left rear puncture and he was forced to pit yet again. He returned in 15th spot and did well to secure ninth with the quickest lap, but it was the hard-luck story of 2020.
Wolff insisted it was due to radio failure. “Simply, one of the tyre crews didn’t hear the call, we had a radio failure in the garage and when the car came in they didn’t know we had the wrong tyres,” he said. The fiasco left Mercedes with a €20 000 (about R368 000) fine. Perez went on to take his first, and well deserved, F1 victory. Strange to think that on Monday morning he will be unemployed.
Another first went to Esteban Ocon who brought his Renault home in second spot with third going to the fellow Racing Point car of Lance Stroll. This weekend it is the final Grand Prix of 2020 in Abu Dhabi and there is no guarantee that Lewis Hamilton will be back due to Covid-19 quarantine rules. Perhaps another chance for Russell. Leclerc was held responsible for the first-lap incident at Sakhir and suffers a three-grid spot demotion plus two penalty points.
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