Russell: Leclerc was borderline with "questionable" F1 British GP defending

George Russell has accused Charles Leclerc of “questionable defending” during the Formula 1 British Grand Prix, suggesting that some of the Ferrari driver’s moves were “borderline”.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Russell followed Leclerc closely for the first 18 laps of the race but could not get by until the latter made an early first stop.

Later Russell emerged from his own slow mid-race pitstop behind Leclerc having run an unusually long first stint on the soft tyres.

The pair then enjoyed a brief but spectacular tussle before Russell went past on his way to an eventual fifth place.

"I felt good on those tyres,” said Russell of his opening stint. “And that was 28 laps within one second of a car ahead.

"I think I could have extended even further had it been clear air. I felt really good on that tyre, it felt really good on our car.

“I did my best to overtake Charles, some questionable defending at points. But it wouldn't have changed my race. Had I got past him, it probably would have meant I would have boxed even earlier.

“Probably both the McLarens would have pitted to cover me. So I still probably would have finished fifth."

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Asked by Autosport to expand on Leclerc’s defending moves, Russell said: "It was just about braking into Turn 16. I was about to lunge him down inside and right at the braking zone he came across pretty aggressively.

“That's clearly not allowed in the rules. I think they gave him a slap on the wrist. But you know when you got one overtaking opportunity and [he gets] sort of a warning for it, it's a bit frustrating."

Russell said he had no plans to pursue the matter in the next drivers’ briefing: "I don't think I need to. It was very borderline. I need to look at a video again.

"It felt on the limit from within the car, or maybe just over the limit. I've not seen a replay. I'm not too concerned about it right now."

Russell admitted that he had expected to be able to fight the McLarens in the last part of the race when he was on the medium tyre and Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri had made a surprise switch to hards.

“I thought it was going to be clear cut, Lewis [Hamilton] and I P2 and P3, and see you later,” he said.

“But I couldn't believe how well they turned the tyres on and got it going. Perhaps if they put the soft on with their car, it may not have worked the same way as it worked on ours.

“And equally, if we had the hards on, it probably wouldn't have worked the same way as it did on their car.

“For me that medium/hard was definitely the wrong strategy. The soft was certainly the best tyre. And they were just a good one and a half, two tenths ahead of us."

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Russell also took responsibility for the pitstop delay: “I think probably only lost about a second and a bit.

“It was my fault, I attacked the entry too much, locked up the tyres. It's a bit scary for the guys when the car is not under control. It didn't change my race.”

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