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George Russell

How an iconic Alonso move inspired Russell to take a 'calculated risk'

George Russell took inspiration from an iconic Fernando Alonso to roar into the lead of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Russell Spain FP3
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George Russell was "dreaming" of and even practiced emulating Fernando Alonso's iconic 2011 Spanish Grand Prix start as he roared into the lead in Barcelona.

From fourth on the grid, Russell used the slipstream of the duelling front-row pair of Lando Norris and Max Verstappen to rocket around the outside and grab the lead. 

He would eventually be passed by Verstappen, Norris and team-mate Lewis Hamilton for the podium spots, as the Briton banked fourth place, just holding off a late charge by Charles Leclerc's Ferrari. 

With a strong headwind into the Turn 1 braking zone, Russell practiced the famous start Alonso made in 2011, also from fourth on the grid, slicing past Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel to dive first place at Turn 1, going onto finish a lapped fifth.

"I was dreaming of it [on Saturday night], and what my plan of attack was," Russell told media including RacingNews365.

"I saw the weather forecast and that the wind had shifted into a headwind into Turn 1 and which meant I knew I could brake really late and deep into the corner. 

"When I was racing karts, I always remember watching Fernando here in [2011], starting P4 and getting into the lead. I always knew it was possible.

"It was calculated, I did four laps to the grid and I practiced braking as late as possible every single lap. 

"I knew where the limit was. I knew how strong the wind was and I knew what was possible, it was a calculated risk."

The hard tyre gamble

Russell was among the early stoppers to trade in the soft tyres he started on, going for a set of mediums, but pitted again just after half-distance, opting for the hard C1 tyres.

The white-walled rubber was not a favoured race tyre, as the one-time grand prix winner lost out to Hamilton in the podium battle, the seven-time champion on the conventional soft-medium-soft strategy. 

But this was all part of Mercedes' plan to protect its result against a Ferrari surge.

"A few small things went against us and having the slow pit-stop put us on the back-foot in the middle stint and under a bit of pressure," Russell explained.

"The hard tyre was pretty rubbish, but we protected the P3/P4 as a team and that is what we were hoping for. 

"We knew beforehand that the hard was not going to be a great tyre, but we wanted to split the risk between Lewis and I because if we extended, we could have potentially been under threat from Charles behind. 

"So as a team, it was to reduce the risk. Obviously I feel a little bit disappointed, but I was [on the podium in Canada], and Lewis did a great job. 

"As a team, we're taking the positives away from what's been a really promising couple of races."

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