Russell "gutted but incredibly proud" after victory twice taken away
Mercedes stand-in driver George Russell conceded he was "gutted but incredibly proud" after twice seeing a maiden Formula 1 victory snatched from his grasp at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Russell, standing in for Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time champion contracted Covid-19, dominated after taking the lead from team-mate Valtteri Bottas at turn one of the race, going on to open up a lead of eight seconds after the first round of stops.
But the race turned on its head when Mercedes called Russell into the pits with a late decision when a safety car was deployed - ironically - as Williams substitute driver Jack Aitken's front wing was lying on the racing line at the final corner.
The team immediately realised they had fitted Valtteri Bottas' front-axle tyres onto Russell's car, calling him in again to strap on the correct rubber, leading to him dropping to fifth.
The Briton looked to be back on course for victory when hunting down Sergio Perez with the fresh set of tyres, only for a puncture to bring his charge to an end and consign him to a fourth stop and a ninth-place finish that may yet be taken away as the team is under investigation for the faulty stop.
A dejected Russell told Sky Sports F1: "[I] can't really put [my feelings] into words.
"Jumping out of the car, it wasn't a nice feeling. I have had races where I have had wins taken away from me, but twice? I just couldn't believe it.
"I gave it everything I had. I was managing the race at the start, I felt confident, comfortable in the opening laps, managing the gap to Valtteri. We had a muddle up in the pit-stop, that put us on the back foot and I had to overtake.
"I think we still could have caught Sergio, we had a tyre advantage and was so quick. Gutted but incredibly proud of what we have achieved and happy to have had the opportunity."
Russell refused to blame his team for the mix-up in the pits after pointing to his mistake at Imola for Williams a few races ago.
"That's racing. It's a team sport," he explained. "We are all in it together.
"Sometimes a driver messes it up, I have once or twice in the Williams, sometimes it goes the other way. We learn from these things.
"It was an incredibly late call to pit because obviously, the safety car came out seconds before we came to the pit-lane and obviously we got the tyres muddled up. The silver lining, I guess I got my first points in Formula 1."
That remains to be seen dependent on the stewards' verdict.
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