As Christian Horner stated that George Russell “managed to get away” by running off the track at the start of the Spanish GP, Nico Rosberg says it was done so well it looked like he had “planned it”.
Russell finished 12th after a disappointing qualifying session at the Circuit de Catalunya and found himself on the sixth row of the grid alongside Red Bull driver Sergio Perez, who had qualified P11.
Russell battled Nico Hulkenberg for position at the start and cut off the second part of the first chicane to avoid contact.
Despite cutting the corner, the stewards declared no penalty was needed, something Red Bull team boss Horner doubted when the Mercedes driver finished on the podium while Perez, who kept his RB19 on track, was P4.
“George managed to get away by running off track and was not penalized for that,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “I think that was the difference at the end of the day.”
While explaining his side of the story, Russell says he didn’t have a choice because he “got kind of cornered.”
“I made a decision because I knew there were two cars in me and I knew if I kept it I would come together with Hulkenberg.”
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“Almost like he was planning to go that way…”
While Horner is unimpressed with Russell’s antics, former Mercedes driver Rosberg says the Briton did “really well” in a move that seemed almost choreographed.
“He absolutely maximized the chances. It was a very aggressive, great start,” said the 2016 world champion.
“It’s almost like he planned to go that way. Once it was a squeeze, ‘oh I’ll dive right in and at least don’t waste any more time’.
“So he did very well. It was perfect.”
His fellow pundit Naomi Schiff has doubts whether Russell should go off track, as it appeared it was a “choice” he made because he had plenty of room.
“I kind of made a funny face when I looked at it,” said Schiff. “From the first corner it looks like he was pushed off and in the second corner we saw it looked like there was enough room for him to go around but it looks like he made that choice.
“That’s the way he can go, there’s a route he can do it. He did it all the right way.
“I think maybe on the part of the FIA, or F1, they should think there’s nothing to lose by going the alternative route. But there’s been no investigation, there’s been no criticism, so he’s got it done the right way.”
Why Russell didn’t get a penalty…
Former F1 driver turned Sky Sports pundit Anthony Davidson explained why he believed the stewards were right in not penalizing Russell.
According to the 44-year-old, Russell was behind Hulkenberg only slightly ahead of Oscar Piastri’s McLaren when he left.
“It’s close,” he said, “but I believe he was just ahead of the McLaren before deciding to take action to take the left escape route.
“I think it’s because he was just ahead of the McLaren, so he didn’t have to give the place back. It’s tight, but by the rules he just about got away with it. That’s why he didn’t get a penalty.”
Instead, he thinks Horner and Red Bull should look to Perez’s strategy for why he failed to make the podium.
“George had a great opening round,” Davidson continued. “For comparison, Sergio Perez on the medium tyres [had] a terrible escape among the sea of soft tire runners.
“In retrospect, I wonder if that was the right thing Red Bull did with Sergio Perez’s strategy?
“We can now look back and say it didn’t work out for him. The soft tires went much better at the start of the race, the first few laps, than we ever imagined.”