Mercedes’ George Russell delighted with “wild” fourth-placed finish at 2023 Qatar Sprint.
Russell opted to run the soft tyre which saw him leap from fourth on the grid up to second at the start behind leader, Oscar Piastri who was on the medium tyre, and eventually passed the Australian at Turn 6 on Lap 3 to take the lead after the first of three safety car periods.
Russell went on to lead the other two safety car restarts but his soft tyres began to degrade quickly which left him “surprised” at the degradation speed, as Piastri reeled him in and retook the lead on Lap 11 just before the final safety car was deployed.
Piastri eventually clung on for victory as Russell fell to fourth at the checkered flag after late overtakes from newly crowned three-time champion, Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris, yet the 25 year-old felt “fortunate that there were a number of safety car interventiosn.”
Acknowleding the importance of the final safety car period in securing his top-four finish amidst degrading soft tyres and limited data due to one Practice session, Russell said: “Without that, we may have finished outside the points.
“That is what can happen during a sprint weekend though where you have limited practice and limited knowledge on the tyres.”
Mercedes also extended their gap to third-placed Ferrari in the constructors’ standings to 32 points, which pleased Russell who felt that their pace advantage over the Scuderia was a “positive” step after starting on the same strategy as their drivers.
Looking ahead to a potential three-stop Grand Prix due to tyre issues, Russell believes that McLaren will mount a huge threat, as he quipped: “We are in a great place tomorrow to fight against the McLarens too. It’s going to be interesting from a strategy perspective so let’s see what we can do.”