Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff blamed a “colossal f**k up” in the pits and a late race flat tyre for costing George Russell victory in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
Wolff said “a star was born” after Russell had comfortably led team-mate Valtteri Bottas for much of the race, only to be beset by problems in the closing stages that left him only ninth at the finish.
The Mercedes boss said: “Overall for us it was just a colossal f**k up. One of the tyre crews didn’t hear the call, we had a radio failure in the garage and when the car came in we didn’t know we had changed the tyres on the wrong tyres.
“We had to pit again. Then the race was not lost, but it was just then one bad thing comes then… It was a safety stop, we were fine on the hard, but we had the gap. I think it’s the right call.”
When shown the replay of the incident Wolff gasped and added: “I can’t even watch these pictures. Failures happen, it wasn’t any human error, it’s not functioning but we don’t know why. These things happen. We need to learn.”
The team boss said he had already spoken to a distraught Russell after the race, and said his conversation with the Williams driver, who had substituted for the Covid-hit Lewis Hamilton, was “very emotional.”
He added: “If you’re in your first race in a Mercedes and you should have won it, driving a monumental race, there is not a lot you can say.
“This is where we are but it’s not going to be his last attempt to win a race. It’s just the beginning of a fairytale. It didn’t work out today but I would say a new star is born.”
It remains to be seen whether Russell will get the chance to return to the Mercedes cockpit at the next race in Abu Dhabi next weekend, as it all hangs on whether Hamilton recovers from the virus in time.
Wolff said the world champion is “feeling better today” but added: “I think we need to see how well Lewis recovers, that’s the most important that he’s well and he says he’s a bit better today, he’s made a big step.
“If the test is negative, it’s his [Hamilton’s] car, and then I am sure he will drive a brilliant race. Then if the test in Abu Dhabi is positive then George is in the car.”
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