George Russell explains why he didn’t take Baku restart

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George Russell has explained why he suddenly pulled out of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at the end of the formation lap for the race restart.

Baku’s sixth round of the 2021 World Championship boiled up into a two-lap shootout with a standing restart after a red-flag stoppage caused by a second big crash on the pits straight, leader Max Verstappen the victim of that to follow Lance Stroll earlier.

As the cars pulled into their grid slots, Russell headed off into the pit lane and out of the race, costing him a chance to gain that long-awaited first points finish for Williams which has now extended well into his third season with the team.

“I had a gearbox issue. I was just coming to the line and then no drive, no power,” said Russell, who reported the problem was different to one that had forced him into an early exit from free practice on the Saturday morning.

“Annoying…we were having a good race, the car felt fast, I felt comfortable and confident with it before the red flag, and then got the tyres in a really good window on the formation lap which would have paid dividends.

“It’s especially frustrating after so much anticipation building up before those final two laps. It wasn’t meant to be, and that’s racing sometimes.”

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Nevertheless, again there were plusses Russell could take from the weekend as he secured his customary progress into Q2 and was even running just behind Valtteri Bottas, with whom he had that infamous collision at Imola in April.

“Another Q2, the car felt good in the race, so we’ve got to take the positives where we can and they definitely were them,” he added. “A shame to end like that.”

Russell, in contrast to his team-mate Nicholas Latifi, was given a two-stop strategy, which Williams’ head of vehicle performance, Dave Robson, explained.

“We tried a different strategy with George to get him some free air and an opportunity to pressure the cars ahead,” said Robson.

“Unfortunately, he couldn’t find enough pace on the hard tyres to make much progress even though the car was working reasonably well.

“However, having stopped for new tyres at the first Safety Car, he was in a good position as those ahead began to struggle on their older tyres.

“Unfortunately, the second Safety Car and subsequent race suspension gave all cars a chance to fit fresh tyres for the final two-lap sprint to the chequered flag.

“In the end, George was unable to take the race restart due to a suspected gearbox issue.”

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