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Russell reckons he had pace to threaten Verstappen in F1 Qatar GP

Mercedes Formula 1 driver George Russell reckons he could have challenged Max Verstappen for victory in the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix without his Turn 1 collision with Lewis Hamilton. 

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Russell started the 57-lap run around Losail Circuit from second place but a superior launch for team-mate Hamilton, who lined up third on soft tyres, brought the pair together into the first corner. 

Hamilton tried to move round the outside but clipped Russell, who was sent spinning. He then pitted before battling his way back to fourth place in an intensely humid encounter. 

Without the crash, which eliminated Hamilton on the spot, Russell reckoned he could have chased Red Bull’s three-time world champion Verstappen for victory given his strong race pace. 

“I see no reason why not,” said the Briton when asked if he might have threatened Verstappen. 

“We believe that we were on pace [as fast as], if not faster, than McLaren [who scored a double podium with Oscar Piastri ahead of Lando Norris].  

“Seeing that Piastri finished so close to Max was really quite surprising.” 

Verstappen eventually claimed the win by 4.8 seconds, although this gap was somewhat artificially constrained by the FIA and Pirelli capping stints at 18 laps after identifying microscopic tears in the tyre sidewalls owing to the new raised kerb edges at the circuit. 

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, the remainder of the field as George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, recovers after a crash with Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, in the background

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, the remainder of the field as George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, recovers after a crash with Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, in the background

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Red Bull boss Christian Horner reckoned Verstappen “went past an optimal strategy” to ensure he had flexibility with his tyre choice should a late safety car have come into play. 

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Average lap pace indicates McLaren was fastest on the day, followed by Verstappen and then Russell, with the Mercedes driver’s 10 best lap times an average of 0.531s slower than Verstappen. 

Russell also welcomed an apology from Hamilton, who took “100%” of the responsibility after reviewing the Turn 1 crash. But he nevertheless rated 2023 as a “complete disaster” for his championship efforts. 

“I was gutted because of the results for a team,” said Russell. “This year, the drivers' championship has just been a complete disaster for me.  

“I've got one goal, and that's to finish P2 in the teams’ championship. It was, of course, a big opportunity. But I still have full faith we're going to achieve it.  

“So, I stand here now with positivity because the car was quick and [we had] a really strong race.” 

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