Regretful Russell gains sympathy of peers and public after late mistake

Everybody makes mistakes. Yet nowhere are they greater magnified than in front of millions of watching people on the global stage that is televised sport.

When George Russell attempted to put extra temperature into his tyres whilst running directly behind the Safety Car caused by Max Verstappen’s late accident in the Emilia Romagna GP, his Williams suddenly snapped straight left and into the barrier. There was nothing he could do. He was out of the race.

After emerging from the car, Russell sat by the side of the track, helmeted head in hands, reminiscent of Mika Hakkinen after the Finn made an uncharacteristic error whilst leading the 1999 Italian GP at Monza, thus handing the race win to title rival Eddie Irvine.

Russell was understandably crestfallen, as he had been in a strong position to score valuable points for a Williams team that has struggled at the back of the grid for the majority of the season.

“I knew that with the guys behind me on the new tyres and myself on the old tyres, I had to be super aggressive to be in with the chance of getting a point,” reflected Russell in his team’s post-race debrief. “I came out of the corner and the tyres were too cold and I just lost the car, and I was already in the wall. It is absolutely gutting, and I am really sorry to the team.

“We were having an amazing race up until then, we were pushing really hard every lap and the pace was good. There are no excuses, I have to go away and learn from this and come back stronger next time.”

Russell was enjoying a strong race and was running in the points until his late mistake

It is a measure of Russell’s popularity within the paddock and the esteem his fellow drivers have for him that rather than chastise him for an elementary mistake, they jumped to his support. Earlier in the week, Fernando Alonso singled out Russell as his pick of the young drivers most likely to make it to the very top.

“From all of them, George Russell is the one that surprises me every weekend,” the two-time champ told Sky Sports. “How he’s driving the Williams. Zero mistakes. I’m really surprised about his natural speed. So if I have to say one name, Russell for the future is going to be my pick.”

Add one mistake, then, to the Russell book. And there will be more. Be it Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher or Lewis Hamilton, every great champion in the history of F1 has made them. Williams has a very special talent in former F2 champion Russell and the stats don’t lie. In two seasons in F1, he has yet to be outqualified or, when he has finished, beaten by the first yardstick every driver is to be measured by. His teammate.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.