Mercedes strategist explains why George Russell let Sergio Perez pass him in Melbourne

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Mercedes chief strategist James Vowles has revealed that George Russell was forced to yield for Sergio Perez at the Australian Grand Prix in order to ensure that his tyres held on until the end of the race. Russell secured his first podium finish as a Mercedes driver at the end of the 58-lap contest on the streets of Melbourne but crossed the line behind Perez, who trailed eventual winner Charles Leclerc for the entirety of the day’s running.

Russell appeared to let Perez overtake him on lap 36 with next to no resistance after he was told not to fight the Mexican driver in order to manage his set of hard tyres until the end of the race. Vowles has since explained that Mercedes were not happy about instructing Russell to avoid battling for the position but were forced to do so out of necessity to ensure that he finished without retiring or needing to pit again.

“It’s a subtlety but it’s an important one,” Vowles told Mercedes’ official YouTube channel. “It’s not so much that we asked George to let Perez go, we never want to give up track position.

“But these tyres, the medium and also the hard tyre, required a good amount of management, a good amount of looking after them to make sure they can make it to the end of the race without dropping off the curve.

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“You saw that happen with Perez on stint one. The message to George was very simple: ‘Look after your tyres’. And if that costs a position to Perez on track then we don’t want it with all our heart but it’s the right thing to do.

“Ultimately, getting to the end of the race on tyres that we know will make it covers you off against safety cars and other circumstances [and] is the right course of action, especially given what happened with the mediums in stint one.

“We had also expected with Perez, with the pace he was doing and the amount he was pushing the tyres, could well have a repeat of what happened in stint one. But ultimately that didn’t happen, he pulled away, actually he overtook him [Russell] fairly easily in the end and there was no race there for us to have.”

Mercedes will be looking to improve their overall pace by working hard at their Brackley headquarters between now and next weekend to stand the best chance of finishing on the podium once again at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. The Silver Arrows currently find themselves occupying second place in the Constructors’ Championship standings after three races but have been well adrift of Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of car performance since the start of pre-season testing.

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