The Massive Murder That Inspired Russell’s Failed ‘Hero Moment’

George Russell’s bet on slippery tires in Canadian Grand Prix qualifying “could have been a hero moment” according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, and was inspired by his famous third place on the grid for the 2021 Russian Grand Prix.

Russell’s high-risk, high-reward gamble backfired when he spun into Turn 2 and backed into the barrier slightly, preventing him from improving on his final Q3 run. That put him in eighth fastest, with teammate Lewis Hamilton opting to stick with intermediates and finish fourth.

Russell said the move was due to his desire to fight for pole position, following the strategy he used last year at Sochi, where he was the first to switch from intermediates to slicks in dry conditions – he did this even before he had placed a Q3 banker round.

He also mentioned the Sochi comparison when speaking to Wolff after the qualifying session.

“I want to fight for pole, and I’m not here to settle for P3, P4,” said Russell. “I think we had a good car today.

“I saw the dry line appear and it only takes one corner to let you down and for me it was turns 1 and 2.

“It happened last year in Sochi when I was one of three drivers to go from inters to slicks, and I qualified P3 with Williams. So it’s high risk, high reward. It didn’t pay off today, but the race is tomorrow.”

Another factor that led Russell to call for the switch to intermediates was how quickly the transition from intermediates to slicks has happened in the past, especially in Monaco last month.

But he underestimated the fact that the track was even more humid in some areas than in others, especially in Turn 1/2 where he was out.

“I was surprised in Monaco how quickly it passed,” said Russell. “On other occasions, I was surprised at how quickly it passed. It only takes half a dry line and everything changes.

“Half of the track was completely dry. Another quarter of the track there was a small dry line.

“And then the last 15 minutes, which was Turns 1 and 2, it just came on. Like I said, it only takes one corner.”

Russell also accepted that in hindsight he could have aborted the attempt at the end of the outlap and switched back to intermediates.

He suggested that that would “probably get him back to P4”, but he was determined to attack.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Canadian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Montreal, Canada

He realized the slicks would be tough if he was on the outlap, and insists he didn’t regret the botched gamble given the potential advantage.

“I realized it was going to be very difficult,” Russell said of his outlap.

“I thought with a warm-up lap, that last lap could be it. But sometimes it is not obvious.

“I’m glad I went for it because it could have paid off. At the end of the day I am P8. It’s not the end of the world.”

Wolff admitted that the strategy Mercedes used with Hamilton in terms of cool down laps was not perfect and that Russell would have been at a similar level had he stayed on intermediates.

But he backed Russell for making the risky decision.

“We are not in the championship battle and I think if we had given Lewis a better strategy with a cool-down we would have been further ahead,” said Wolff. “And I think George would probably have been in a similar position.

“But this is the time when you can take risks and I’m up for risk and bally calls.

“This is what he did and it could have been a hero moment. It wasn’t, but I think you should go for it if you’re where we are.”

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