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Aitken "gutted" for Russell but takes no responsibility for pit-stop saga

Aitken "gutted" for Russell but takes no responsibility for pit-stop saga

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Aitken "gutted" for Russell but takes no responsibility for pit-stop saga

Aitken "gutted" for Russell but takes no responsibility for pit-stop saga
Ian Parkes & Ewan Gale

Williams stand-in driver Jack Aitken has absolved himself of any blame for George Russell's heartbreak that resulted in him missing out on a grand prix victory.

Lewis Hamilton stand-in Russell pitted under a safety car ironically sparked by Aitken, substituting for his fellow Briton at Williams, after he lost his front wing in colliding with a barrier at the final corner of the Sakhir GP Outer Track.

The stop proved disastrous as the wrong tyres were fitted to race-leader Russell's W11, and in tandem with a slow puncture late in the race when he was charging back to the front, the 22-year-old could only manage ninth.

Despite revealing his disappointment for Russell, Aitken refused to take responsibility for the unfortunate series of events.

"I am gutted for George as a colleague and friend," he said. "Obviously, it was a huge opportunity for him and that is very unfortunate.

"I am not, I don't feel, responsible in any way for it. This is racing, this is what happens. It was a chain reaction.

"Mercedes obviously made a bit of an error and that is very unfortunate for him, but that's racing and I am sure I will get my fair share."

Aitken's F1 debut had been a promising affair up until the mistake at the final corner, with the British F2 driver largely on pace with team-mate Nicholas Latifi from qualifying onwards.

But he cited a potential points opportunity as the dangling carrot that enticed him into pushing too hard, causing the spin and ruining any chances of the team's first points of the season.

"My first few laps, it was more a case of getting used to the pack," he explained, regarding his learning curve.

"We had done a little bit of driving in traffic during practice but just settling in was tricky with how chaotic it was. We were fighting a bit with Kimi [Raikkonen], eventually got past him and pulled away which was nice.

"It was looking pretty good on pace, we were matching the guys ahead of us and looking pretty good, slightly creeping up to them. I was feeling like there was an opportunity, particularly with some of the retirements in the first couple of laps.

"Then I just pushed it too hard, took a little bit of a chance by keeping my foot in on the dust and it bit me pretty hard. I am really sorry to the whole team for that."

Aitken is naturally hoping for another opportunity this weekend in Abu Dhabi, but that depends on whether Hamilton tests negative on numerous occasions before being allowed to take part.

"It is a real, real shame but I think there are a lot of positives to build on from this weekend," said Aitken.

"The pace came on a really long way and should I have to step in again at the weekend, I am more motivated than ever to do a better job and bring more to the table for the team so we will see what happens with that."

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