Nine-time Grand Prix winner Mark Webber believes that George Russell’s performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix was “horrible” timing for Lewis Hamilton.
With the seven-time world champion forced to miss the race after testing positive for COVID-19, his replacement Russell qualified second on the grid and led for much of the Grand Prix.
A Mercedes pit stop error and a subsequent slow puncture proved costly and he came home in ninth, but Webber said that the ease with which the young Brit adapted to the W11 would have impacted Hamilton’s “share price”.
“The timing for Lewis was was just horrible,” he told the At The Controls podcast. “I drove 1,000 days in a Formula 1 car with testing and practice and Grands Prix and weekends. The whole thing put together over 12 years, if you look at how many actual physical days in the car, I think I had three days off, because I don’t want anyone near my car.
“You’re just trying to look out for your own share price. You don’t want people to have exposure to your material and your people. And it’s such a cutthroat industry. Even someone like Lewis, that was all downside for him, generally.”
Russell will remain at Williams for the 2021 season and Webber believes his quality puts Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff in a good position going forward.
He added: “George drove well. Yes, it was the easiest track in the world. It wasn’t exactly Suzuka. But he still drove brilliantly in a compromised, ergonomically, environment in the car.
“Toto certainly likes the tightrope in terms of playing the game with lots of different things in the pit lane. And that was another one where it looks like it’s come out in his favour.”