By Tom Westbrook
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A golden shot at a second Formula One victory ended in a last-lap crash and scream of frustration for Mercedes driver George Russell at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday.
With fresher tyres than Ferrari’s eventual winner Carlos Sainz and McLaren’s Lando Norris, who took second, the Briton looked a possible winner as he pressed his speed and advantage in the final stages.
“I had half a chance (to pass) Lando,” he said. “Half a car’s length different and I think we’d have won the race because I’d have got ahead of Lando and Carlos would have been stuck with no DRS. I would’ve flown by him.
“Instead I ended the race in the wall.”
The impact, which he walked away from, gave third place to seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton and left Russell unable to finish, pummelling his steering wheel and yelling into his team radio.
“I saw Lando brush the wall… and two tenths of a second later, I’ve hit the wall,” said Russell.
“(I’ve) no idea what happened, how that happened. Maybe a lack of concentration, maybe frustration of knowing that was the last lap and the opportunity was gone.”
The 25-year-old notched his maiden Formula One win 10 months ago in Brazil — the last time a non Red Bull driver won a race until Sunday.
The result in Singapore lifted Hamilton to third on the overall driver standings, though well behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.
“It was so difficult to win the race if we were just static. So we said let’s go for it and we just went for it,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said of the decision to pit during a virtual safety car period while those ahead stayed out.
“Super that Lewis is on the podium. He had a brilliant race and had pace at the end. Just a shame for George because he worked hard for that.”
Despite the result Russell felt in good form.
“In the moment you just want to curl up in a ball and be with nobody. It’s the most horrendous feeling in the world when you’re so physically drained, mentally drained and miss that one opportunity of victory and then to make such a mistake,” he said.
“But I’m standing here an hour later it’s such an amazing weekend and I truly feel like I’m driving better than I’ve ever driven.”
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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