George Russell has called on alterations to be made to the Rettifilo chicane at Monza to avoid the type of incident that saw him hit with a five-second time penalty during Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix.
Having been overtaken by Sergio Perez on the track, Mercedes were aiming to get Russell back ahead by executing an undercut with Russell on the Red Bull driver.
Russell emerged on brand-new Hard tyres at the beginning of Lap 20 right as the Alpine of Esteban Ocon was storming down the start-finish straight, prompting the two to cross paths at the entry to the first corner.
However, Russell cut across the second part of the chicane and retained the position ahead of Ocon, earning him a five-second time penalty for gaining a lasting advantage.
Reflecting on the incident, Russell said: “I knew there had to be a maximised out-lap. I came out the pits next to Ocon and I knew if I fell behind him my chance to undercut the guys ahead would disappear.
“I went in very hot into Turn 1 knowing there was a bit of a risk to miss the corner and that’s what happened.”
But with the pack behind led by the sister Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, who also picked up a five-second penalty for colliding with Oscar Piastri, a considerable distance behind, Russell was able to hang onto fifth place despite the additional time loss.
Nevertheless, the Briton has suggested that changes to the Monza circuit to reduce the vast run-off areas in places would discourage drivers from cutting corners.
“But in Monza, it’s a bit of a shame because it’s always a bit of a ‘get out of jail free card’ with the run-off there and that gives drivers, especially when you’re fighting, the chance to miss the corner,” he continued.
“So I’d probably like to see a bit of a change in that corner in the future.”
When asked if he would have taken that same risk in hindsight, Russell replied: “Yeah, absolutely. I knew that P5 was probably the worst that we could have achieved, considering the gap to the guy in P6. So it would have only compromised me if there was a Safety Car right at the end.”
While Hamilton struggled throughout qualifying at Monza, Russell produced a stellar lap in Q3 to pip the second Red Bull of Perez to fourth on the starting grid.
Although the Mexican would utilise Red Bull’s superior race pace advantage to come through to second, Perez spent 15 laps behind Russell before he eventually got past the leading Mercedes on the road.
Russell admits he was “surprised” by how long it took Perez to overtake considering Red Bull’s overwhelming superiority.
“I was surprised how long it took Checo to pass with the superior pace of that car. They were so fast in the high-speed corners, we saw yesterday – probably a factor into their better tyre degradation than the rest of us.
“But I was pretty pleased to hold him off for that long and felt good and confident under the braking into Turn 1.”
Despite conceding he would rather have switched roles in the tussle with Perez, Russell acknowledges that there were some positives to take from his robust defence.
He added: “Every fight is enjoyable, but it’s definitely more enjoyable when you’re the attacking car. In a faster car than the defending car in a slower car you know that you’ve got to really nail your braking, nail every corner, because if you don’t they’ll just swing past you.
“There’s something satisfying that we managed to hold a car off like that for so long, so I’ll take a small positive in that there was no mistake from my side in those laps, but unfortunately [the] pace just wasn’t there.”
Mercedes entered the Italian GP weekend already expecting to struggle at the type of low downforce venue that has hampered its competitiveness throughout this rules set.
Russell is optimistic the German marque will be stronger next time out in Singapore, but he has stressed that Mercedes must understand its issues at high-speed circuits.
Questioned on his expectations for the race weekend at the Marina Bay circuit, Russell said: “I suspect we’ll be more competitive, especially in the race, than we were this weekend.
“We need to understand why we have such a delta between our higher and lower downforce package. We always seem to struggle at circuits like Spa, Monza, Baku, Austria – even on the medium-low downforce setting – and we always seem to be quick on the higher [downforce] side.
“So there are some characteristic differences in our higher and lower downforce packages. We need to understand that and recognise what it is that’s making us more competitive, at least on the stopwatch, between the two.”