George Russell believes the 2023 Formula 1 season has been his best yet based on “pure performance” but contends that a multitude of spurned points has disguised that.
Russell was finally promoted to the senior Mercedes team last year after three seasons with Williams, right as the German marque’s unprecedented spell at the top of the sport was about to come to an abrupt end.
Nevertheless, Russell responded admirably to Mercedes’ struggles, becoming only the third team-mate to outscore Lewis Hamilton and securing his maiden F1 victory in Brazil.
However, Russell has only collected one top-three race finish this year and languishes seventh in the Drivers’ Championship, a hefty 75 points behind Hamilton in third.
But the Briton asserts that his underlying pace has been strong throughout this year, estimating that he has lost “over 60 points” through driver errors and strategy mishaps.
Asked to assess his performance ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend, Russell said: “In terms of pure performance, I feel that this season has been my best ever, but I reckon there’s over 60 points that we’ve lost this season and for a number of different reasons.
“Australia, you know, we have the shot at a minimum a podium [before he retired with an engine failure], the 18 points there we had [in] Zandvoort with the rain, there’s another podium that was gone. The podium last week [Singapore] was obviously driver error and we had in Canada obviously, again, another mistake from my side, another 10 points lost there, Monaco [headed down an escape road from third] a few points lost as well and there’s been many, many races where we’ve lost points.”
Russell admits that he is unsure whether the early realisation that Mercedes would not be in a position to contest the championship this year negatively impacted his approach.
“When I put that in contrast to last year, I think we were in the top five in 19 of 22 races and we just kept on collecting those points,” he continued. “So, you know, I’ve got an objective and target this year which is to secure P2 in the championship for the team.
“But I think it was, it was quite clear this year from the beginning that we weren’t going to be fighting for a championship. And I don’t know if that’s had an impact on my mentality at all or not.
“But you know, I can assure you once we’re in the position to fight again for a championship, I’m sure I’ll be back to the ways I know how to fight for a championship.”
Russell’s most recent high-profile mistake came in Singapore when he crashed out from third position on the final lap.
Mercedes had utilised a late Virtual Safety Car period to pit both its drivers for fresh tyres, enabling Russell and Hamilton to chase down Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
The ex-Williams racer concedes that he could have handled the final stint better even prior to his race-ending shunt at Turn 10, citing that he took too much life out of his tyres in his pursuit of the leading pair.
Expanding on his Singapore race outing, Russell explained: “Yeah it was definitely being stuck behind Lando to be honest, that’s the thing I regret most from the race.
“I thought I did a good job with that attack, but not an exceptional job. And you know, it’s these very small differences in a split moment that can totally change the outcome. Um, you know, as I said, we’re, we’re racing against the best drivers in the world. We’re all competing.
“Carlos did a great job to you know, give Lando DRS over the rest. I don’t think he probably had much more pace anyway and that really helped him to secure that victory and, you know, potentially I potentially pushed a little bit too hard to catch them. Whereas actually maybe if I took it a little bit easier I’d have still caught them and had the tyres in a better window by the time I arrived.
“So, you know, it’s so easy in hindsight but I’m glad I’m glad we went for it. It would have been painful just to sit there and P2 within the DRS range for the whole race not doing anything.”