Mercedes may have accidentally cost George Russell a podium in Imola

Mercedes: What’s gone wrong at the F1 and can they recover?

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Mercedes may have cost George Russell the opportunity to score a second podium of the season in Imola had it not been for a set-up error. Mercedes trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin has admitted Russell had the ‘wrong balance’ in the latter stages of the race.

He has claimed this issue was ‘costing’ the Mercedes rookie crucial performance and stressed Russell could have done more without the issues.

Speaking on Mercedes AMG Petronas YouTube channel, Shovlin said: “Given the difficulties we had in qualifying, given the fact he finished the sprint race where he started, it was certainly a good effort to bring the car home in fourth. We also had that issue with the front wing adjuster which meant he had the wrong balance.

“He was effectively driving a wet car balance in the dry. There was no doubt that was costing him performance. We’re very pleased with the fourth place he was able to achieve. Who knows what he could have done if we had the right car balance in that final stint.”

Ahead of his stop, Russell warned the team he would be “shy of aero balance” without any adjustments. However, the team didn’t manage to adjust the front flap during his stop.

At the time, Williams test driver Jamie Chadwick claimed Russell would not have “optimum car balance” for the rest of the race. Russell had to fend off a fast-charging Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages but held on to P4.

The result is the former Williams star’s fourth successive top-five finish this season. But, Russell finished nearly eight seconds behind McLaren’s Lando Norris at the chequered flag.

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It means with a more agile car setup and without Bottas as a distraction, it’s quite possible he could have claimed third.

Russell said: “We had an issue at the pitstop, we couldn’t get the front wing-flap in the car and it was just massively understeery. It was doubly difficult because I was already struggling with a lot of understeer on the intermediate, so I would have wanted to make a big step initially for that, and then another big step for that in terms of slick.

“That front right was just falling to bits, it was so far out of bed with the set-up. So I just had to manage it and be ready at the end to defend.” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff also addressed the issue after the race, claiming the team had ‘missed out’ on making the changes needed to Russell’s car.

He said: “We saw with George what our car can do in clear air but it’s still not good enough. We missed out on adjusting George’s front flap at the pit stop due to an issue which meant he had a car that was setup for wet for the majority of the race so a great drive from him to hold on the P4 at the end.”

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