George Russell scored an impressive P4 finish for Mercedes in Imola while teammate Lewis Hamilton struggled to progress following a slow pit stop. Russell admits he found the tyres difficult to manage due to the track conditions and notes the low tyre blanket temperature exacerbated the issue.
“It was ok. The tyres are very difficult to manage. When the track is dry they degrade very quick, when the track is too wet you cannot get the temperature in it,” Russell said.
“I think the regulation with the blanket temperatures being so low makes it so difficult for the drivers and the teams.
“Fortunately the track dried, but when we were on the drivers’ parade, how much water we had at that time, being on the extreme wets with I think sixty degree blanket temperature would have been a nightmare for everyone.”
Reflecting on the changeable conditions of the drying track surface, the young Mercedes driver said he wanted to pit for dry tyres several laps before his eventual stop, but was unable to due to the nature of the traffic.
“I was asking to go on slicks three laps before we boxed, but nobody else was pitting and I would have just come out in the middle of the pack behind the guys on intermediates.”
Russell continued to claim he was surprised none of the other drivers, particularly those further down the grid, had taken the risk to make an early change to dry rubber.
“I don’t know why nobody else at the back was taking the gamble because for me it was clear [the track was ready for] slicks I think three laps before I pitted.”
When asked if the apparent tyre warmup issues had been a concern of the team when judging the change over between intermediate and dry tyres, Russell states the main issue was the aforementioned traffic as there was no gap for him to rejoin in.
“I don’t think [tyre warmup] was a concern, it was just literally I would have come out in P13 I think in a load of traffic with the intermediate runners. We were pulling two seconds a lap on these guys.
“You needed them to pit to clear up the space for us to pit. Yeah, I was shocked when nobody else went sooner. It was really strange because it was clearly dry.”
Reflecting on his tense late race battle with former Mercedes turned Alfa Romeo driver Valtteri Bottas, Russell admits his infamous clash with the Finn at the same track last year was at the back of his mind.
“Definitely reminiscing a little bit over last year. We had an issue with the pit stop, we couldn’t get the front wing flap in the car. [It was] just massively understeery and that front right was just falling to bits. We were so far out of bed with the setup so I just had to manage it and be ready at the end to defend.
“This track here is such an amazing circuit, so much character, but it’s just impossible to race. Especially in these mixed conditions, one overtaking opportunity, one dry line, there’s nothing you can do.”