Top nine very British team radio moments: George Russell16 June 2023
There may be three British drivers on the Formula 1 grid in 2023, but one in particular appears to have the most quintessentially British phrasebook. We are of course, referring to F1 race winner and Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 driver, George Russell.
Russell’s time in the sport has been punctuated by several key moments; a guest appearance for Mercedes during the 2019 Sakhir Grand Prix, finally scoring points with Williams, his first pole position and his first race win to name but a few.
Present throughout all of his career-defining moments were his now-famed colloquialisms and use of stereotypically British language. That has resulted in his radio calls to the pit wall becoming firm favourites for his fans in both the UK and beyond.
Sakhir Grand Prix
As a substitute for the Covid-stricken Lewis Hamilton, Russell found himself in unfamiliar territory during the Sakhir Grand Prix. He’d spent the 2020 season at the wheel of an underperforming Williams but seized the opportunity to qualify second in his Mercedes AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance alongside Valtteri Bottas. Russell took the lead at Turn 1 but when the Safety Car was deployed, he radioed Peter Bonington, "Please advise on that, please Bono. Not too sure what to do. I'll just follow your lead mate.” Later in the race, Bonington – aka Bono – reassured Russell that he’d have a tyre advantage over the cars ahead to which he received the response, “I bloody hope so.” In a cruel twist, he would be denied his maiden win by a tyre mix up in the pits and a late-race puncture. Ninth and his first F1 points were his only consolation from a weekend that promised so much more.
Hungarian Grand Prix
In the wake of an early red flag, the restart of the 2021 race at the Hungaroring was one of the stranger ‘lights out and away we go’ moments in recent memory. As seven-time World Champion Hamilton lined up to start from the P1 grid slot, the rest of the field filed into the pits to change from inters to slicks, the resultant pitlane queue lead Russell to ask his team, “What can I do? Can I go to the front of the queue?” As any self-respecting Brit will attest that queueing is taken very seriously. Having given up the positions gained in his queue jump, Russell then offered to sacrifice his own strategy in a bid to support his teammate Nicholas Latifi’s bid for points, “If you need to compromise my race to help Nicky, do it. I will box early to avoid the undercut for anyone else. Prioritise Nicky.” An admirable display of teamwork resulted in Latifi and Russell finishing seventh and eighth respectively, ending a two-and-a-half-year points draught for Russell and Williams.
Belgian Grand Prix
During FP1, Russell encountered a slow Lance Stroll on the racing line. Frustrated by the incident, he voiced his thoughts on the team radio, “What’s Stroll doing? He just stayed right in my way. That was very silly from Stroll.” It didn’t seem to faze the Williams driver though, as he went on to qualify second in torrential conditions a day later. Then came the infamous 2021 race at Spa which saw the starting order translate directly into the finishing order, having completed two laps behind the safety car. As a result, Russell scored his first podium in Formula 1.
Azerbaijan Grand Prix
The 2022 season would see Russell at Mercedes, racing for a full season in front-running machinery for the first time. That year, he’d go on a remarkable run, only crossing the line outside of the top five on two occasions. At the Baku City Circuit, the gap to the Ferrari and Red Bulls was particularly large and Russell couldn’t hide his surprise. After he was informed of Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen’s lap times, who set a 1:41.359 and 1:41.706 respectively compared to his own 1:42.712, Russell uttered a very British phrase in a state of disbelief, “Blimey. Blimey, blimey, blimey! Work to do, let’s keep pushing.”
Hungarian Grand Prix
Qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix proved to be a pivotal moment in Russell’s career. After posting the second-fastest time behind Hamilton in Q1, and a seventh in Q2, it was expected that the Mercedes cars had pace but how much of it was still to be determined. During the first runs of Q3, he posted a time good enough for fourth, but in the session’s final moments, claimed the top spot for his own, besting the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz by just four hundredths of a second. On his in lap he exclaimed, “you beauty! YOU BEAUTY!” Despite being bested by Verstappen and Hamilton in a thrilling duel for the win a day later, there was a consensus that Russell had made a statement that weekend.
Singapore Grand Prix
After a fraught qualifying session, Russell ducked out in Q2 and to make matters worse, he started in the pit lane for exceeding his quota of power unit elements. At a circuit where overtaking is notoriously tricky, Russell was left with it all to do on Sunday and despite his best efforts in mixed conditions – including a fastest lap as the field moved to dry tyres – he was unable to make a substantial impact on the race itself. In the closing stages, he attempted a move on Haas F1 Team’s Mick Schumacher for P13, but the German’s defensive tactics denied him the opportunity for at least one more lap, leading him to comment, "Schumacher's defending like it’s the race of his life. Crikey!"
São Paulo Grand Prix
Having beached his car in Q3 after setting the third-fastest time, Russell had something of a point to prove during Saturday’s Sprint in Brazil. The Mercedes driver quickly dispatched pole-sitter Kevin Magnussen and set about chasing down Verstappen. It may have taken three attempts, but he finally got the job done into Descida do Lago on Lap 15. From that point on, he didn’t look back, taking the win by almost four seconds and celebrating over the radio with his team, “That’s how we roll baby! That’s how we roll. Very nicely done.” Russell went on to take victory in the Grand Prix the following day, forever marking himself as a Formula 1 race winner.
Miami Grand Prix
After an encouraging qualifying session in which he qualified sixth, Russell was on the offensive from lights out at the Miami Grand Prix. When Pierre Gasly was overtaken by Max Verstappen and his Alpine was subsequently compromised on the start/finish straight, the #63 driver took advantage to move up to fifth. Following the move, he praised his team stating, “I should listen to you engineers more often.” Later in the race, Russell was as polite as ever when teammate Hamilton on an alternative strategy let him past, “Thank you very much. Very much appreciated.” He’d later finish the race in fourth, just shy of the podium.
Spanish Grand Prix
Having qualified in P12, Russell had plenty of ground to make up in Sunday’s race. As temperatures soared and he rose through the order, the King's Lynn native began reporting rain back to his team on the pit wall. After a few minutes however, he realised his mistake asking “Is anyone else reporting rain? I think it’s sweat from the inside of my helmet.” Having shaken off his perspiration worries, Russell went on to finish third, a well-earned podium alongside his teammate. He was heard over the radio on the cooldown lap saying, “Not too shabby at all, nicely done from P12. This sport is a bit more fun when the car’s fast, aye?”