Desperate George Russell decision made by Mercedes amid threat of fresh F1 penalty

Mercedes did not take any chances with George Russell’s car, which was on the verge of an engine failure that could have had dire consequences, so Russell did not finish the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Mercedes’ choice to retire George Russell’s car at Interlagos may spare him from a fine for the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Throughout the Brazilian Grand Prix, the British driver maintained a point lead, but his gap kept growing as Mercedes struggled to find enough speed. The decision to retire his car was made not long before the race was over.

Russell was relieved of his suffering by that call, but that was not the cause. A Mercedes representative acknowledged that the engine’s “imminent failure” was caused by “high and worsening power unit oil temperatures,” which led to the retirement.

A similar result might have put Russell in a vulnerable position the next time around in Vegas. As he has already utilized all four of the internal combustion engines that each driver is permitted to use this season, a new engine would automatically result in a grid penalty.

In that sense, Russell is not the only one balancing on a thin line. Twenty drivers have used all four of their ICEs for the year with two races remaining in the 2023 season, while 25% of the grid has been used.

Mercedes gave themselves the best opportunity to salvage that power unit should it be required for the final two races by retiring Russell. However, team principal Toto Wolff, who spoke at the conclusion of a tumultuous weekend for Mercedes, wore his heart on his sleeve, found no solace in that.

“George and Lewis drove such a miserable thing that I can only feel bad for them. Lewis made it out there alive. Thus, it demonstrates how challenging the car is—it’sperilous. We need to improve it for next year because it is inconceivable that after seven days of podium finishes with a strong, fast car, you are nowhere.

“We’re clearly not world champions on Sprint race weekends. We did some good work here at the track to get it done, but it still doesn’t explain what went wrong. The car drove like it was on three wheels and not four… This car doesn’t deserve a win. We need to push through the last two races, recover – I think that’s the most important thing – and see what we can do in Las Vegas, a different track, and Abu Dhabi.

“But the performance today was… I’m lacking words. Straight-line speed was one issue but probably not the main factor. I think the main factor was we couldn’t go around the corners with the bigger wing with the pace we needed and we were killing the tyres, just eating them up within a few laps.”

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