Russell wanted to curl up in a ball after ‘heartbreaking’ Singapore crash
By Mat Coch
Monday 18th September, 2023 - 1:49pm
George Russell branded his final lap crash in the Singapore Grand Prix as “heartbreaking” and “the most horrendous feeling in the world” after he clipped the barrier half a lap from the chequered flag.Russell and his Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, had caught race leader Carlos Sainz and second-placed Lando Norris in the final laps.
However, the canny Sainz backed Norris into the two Mercedes, giving the McLaren driver DRS which made him more difficult to pass on the straights, thereby affording the leading Ferrari a layer of protection.
The battle proved the highlight of the race, with Russell working hard to stay in touch with Norris through the old Singapore Sling section before a lapse in concentration saw him clip the barrier with his right front wheel.
He skated into the barrier beyond and out of a race that, on pace alone, he could have won.
His efforts were thwarted by Sainz, who managed the pace in the opening stint to limit Mercedes’ options and was inch-perfect in the latter laps as he defended for a stunning victory.
“With Carlos managing the pace for the whole duration, it’s quite difficult to keep a concentration because we were driving one and a half seconds off the pace,” Russell recounted.
“But it was only natural for him to do that with let’s say the tyre advantage we had and if he went any faster it would have only given us the opportunity.”
Key to Russell’s race was a strategy choice made on Saturday, which saw he and Hamilton both save a set of medium compound tyres.
When Esteban Ocon rolled to a halt with a suspected gearbox issue in his Alpine on Lap 43, it afforded the opportunity to employ an aggressive strategy that also proved decisive.
Both Russell and Hamilton pitted under the Virtual Safety Car, trading track position for fresh tyres in the run to the flag.
Sainz, Norris and Charles Leclerc ahead all remained on track, on the hard rubber they’d fitted under the Lap 20 Safety Car (for debris from Logan Sargeant’s Williams).
“We obviously got fortunate with the [Virtual] Safety Car and that was when the race really turned on its head got really exciting,” Russell said.
“Was really pushing flat out. But again, Carlos did a great job was to manage the gap with the DRS with Lando. Very smart of him to do that.
“I had half a chance with Lando; half a car’s length different I think would have won the race because I‘d have got ahead of Lando and then Carlos would have been stuck with no DRS and would have flew by him.
“Instead, ended the race in the wall and no idea what happened, how that happened; probably a lack of concentration, maybe frustration knowing that that was the last lap, the opportunity was gone.
“A one-centimetre mistake has sort of clouded the whole weekend.”
Russell wasn’t alone in tagging the wall, Norris also brushed it on the final lap but got away with it in the McLaren. It was probably that which dragged Russell into his mistake.
Norris’ was a race of opportunism, while Mercedes had the fastest car in the latter stages – Sainz’s race craft earning him an unlikely win.
It was that point Russell dwelled on; the fact he’d lost a rare chance of victory – at least in 2023.
“In the moment, you just want to curl up in a ball ad be with nobody,” he said of his emotions after the crash.
“It’s the most horrendous feeling in the world. When you’re so physically drained, mentally drained, you missed out on an opportunity of victory, and then to make such a mistake. It’s truly heartbreaking.”