George Russell says he realised he needed to "look forward" during the Brazilian Grand Prix and forget Lewis Hamilton was chasing him as he secured a first Formula 1 win. Russell led from pole position in Sao Paulo, and his victory chances increased when Hamilton and Max Verstappen collided at Turn 1 after a first Safety Car restart. However, a second, later Safety Car threatened to derail his chances of a win, with Hamilton starting P2 for the final charge to the flag. However, the younger Briton quickly gapped Hamilton at just outside DRS range, holding a pace advantage through the middle sector to just keep Hamilton the wrong side of the one second activation barrier. Russell eventually crossed the line 1.529s clear of Hamilton to become the 113th driver to win a World Championship Grand Prix. Speaking afterwards, Russell revealed his change of approach during the race.
Russell: The only way was to look ahead
"[It was] definitely tricky, for sure, but you just have to go through the process and treat it as if it's any other," Russell explained to media including RacingNews365.com. "There was a moment in the race where I was looking a lot at my mirrors seeing Lewis there, but I sort of realised I just need to look forward now. "[I thought] the only way I'm going to win this race is by looking ahead, driving as fast as I can [and] making no mistakes. "My engineer was on the radio, giving me the gaps, probably four times a lap, it was always between 1.1 and 1.3, 1.1, 1.4, 1.1. "I just wanted that little extra half-a-second buffer. It was only when I came into Sector 3 on the last lap that I knew we’d got it."
Team orders not used
During the final Safety Car period, Russell was informed by the team that both cars were free to race for the win and that team orders would not be deployed. Russell was asked if the decision to allow the Mercedes cars to race shocked him. " Yes, and no, because we've always said that we're free to race," Russell responded. "Toto [Wolff] and the team have put a lot of faith and trust in Lewis and I and we've obviously had a few side-by-side moments throughout this year and has always been respectful and I think we've got a huge amount of respect for one another. "I think I just wanted to understand the position, because I knew how important that one-two was for the team. "So, if we weren't racing, it was kind of like, ‘bring the car home’; if we were racing, it was a qualifying lap every single lap and you're risking every corner. "The laps just had to be perfect, but I'm obviously happy to have won it that way."