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Russell given mitigation he hoped for after ‘worst Sunday’

George Russell was left hoping his Mercedes team would find his car was substantially damaged by his opening-lap collision with Carlos Sainz after enduring the “worst Sunday” of his 2022 season in Austin.

Russell misjudged Sainz’s trajectory at Turn 1 on the opening lap of the United States Grand Prix and piled into the Ferrari, spinning the Spaniard and inflicting damage that would prematurely end Sainz’s race.

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He was able to continue in the lead group but was handed a five-second time penalty that he served at his first pitstop.

Russell kept touch with the podium battle during his middle stint before fading in his final stint to a lonely fifth place, with enough space to the cars behind to make a late final pitstop and earn the fastest lap bonus point on a set of soft tyres.

Team boss Toto Wolff believed the collision was a “racing incident” because of Sainz’s change of line in the opening corner.

“If I was a steward and looked at it, maybe George had a little understeery moment but then Carlos cut in quite brutally,” Wolff said.

But Russell accepted blame, understood the stewards’ viewpoint and apologised to Sainz after the race.

He also expressed his hope that Mercedes would find that a damaged car would explain his lack of pace compared to victory-challenging team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

“Firstly, apologies to Carlos, I’ve already been to see him,” Russell said after the race.

auto, autos, car, cars, formula 1, russell given mitigation he hoped for after ‘worst sunday’

“When I was attacking Turn 1 and saw him on the outside of Max [Verstappen], I was expecting him to try and hold it around the outside of him, and as soon as I recognised that he was going to cut back underneath Max, I’d already committed to my braking zone and contact was inevitable.

“As a driver, you need to be aware of those possibilities of the car ahead.

“Initially we didn’t think there was much damage, but I’ve got to say it probably was the worst Sunday of my year.

“I was nowhere with regards to the pace, so I’m hoping that when we look at the car there might be a bit more damage than we first expected.

“As soon as I recognised I was out of distance of Checo [Sergio Perez] and Charles [Leclerc], it was a matter of bringing the car home because we were struggling to keep it on the black stuff today.”

Mercedes revealed after the race that Russell was “carrying front wing damage for much of the race that compromised the balance and downforce of his car”.

auto, autos, car, cars, formula 1, russell given mitigation he hoped for after ‘worst sunday’

Wolff said Russell’s front wing was “seriously damaged” by the contact and he was surprised the car even survived the collision.

“The way he T-boned him, we were surprised that it was not a DNF,” Wolff added.

“But we’ve just seen the front wing, it’s massively damaged. Not only the front wing endplate, but also below. And that’s the aero critical part. So, he had a car that was not capable.”

That sentiment was echoed by Russell’s description of his problems in the race.

“It was just a bit all over the place, the balance was inconsistent through the stints and laps,” Russell explained.

“Tricky conditions out there today, only strange thing from the race was that my middle stint was relatively competitive when I was tucked up behind Checo and Charles, I was right on the back of them, within DRS range for a number of laps.

“That was the odd one out – [during the] first stint and the last stint, I was nowhere.”

US GP poleman Sainz was aggravated to be on the receiving end of another driver’s error, having previously been eliminated on the opening lap at Imola earlier in the year following a collision with Daniel Ricciardo.

auto, autos, car, cars, formula 1, russell given mitigation he hoped for after ‘worst sunday’

“Driver mistakes are driver mistakes [but] the problem is that I paid the price again,” Sainz said after the race.

“There’s a bit of a trend of the whole year with lap one that doesn’t allow me to do the race or doesn’t allow me to fight for the win, which is extremely frustrating and disappointing.”

He said “people behind need to pay attention to what they have in front and not crash into people”.

It marks his second successive opening-lap incident as he crashed out all on his own in tricky conditions at Suzuka.

“Not even one lap in the last two races so you can imagine how frustrated I am,” he said.

“You don’t need many words, you need images to see exactly what happened and the images speak for themselves.

“I was in the middle of a fight with Max into Turn 1 and suddenly one guy who wasn’t in the battle came from nowhere and bumped into me so that’s it.”

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