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Formula 1 Spanish GP

Russell inspired by 2011 Alonso start to swoop into F1 Spanish GP lead

Moving from fourth to first, George Russell emulated Fernando Alonso's famous start at Formula 1's 2011 Spanish Grand Prix

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-24, Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-24, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15, the rest of the field at the start

George Russell says he was inspired by Fernando Alonso's rocket start in 2011 to grab the Spanish Grand Prix lead.

Russell started fourth on the dirty side of the grid, alongside Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and behind front-row duo Lando Norris and Max Verstappen.

And when polesitter Norris immediately focused on intercepting Verstappen, who had a better getaway and dipped onto the grass to pass his rival, Russell used a slingshot off both drivers to swoop around the outside on the long run into Turn 1.

The move was reminiscent of Fernando Alonso's lightning start at the 2011 race, when he slung his Ferrari past the front-row starting Red Bull duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.

Watch: Spanish GP Race Analysis - Why F1's "Fastest Car" Couldn't Beat Verstappen

While Alonso passed on the inside instead, those similarities weren't entirely accidental, with Russell admitting that the Spaniard's rocket start was on his mind and convinced him that taking the lead from fourth on the grid was not impossible.

"I was dreaming about it last night and what my plan of attack was going to be," Russell explained.

"I saw the weather forecast and the wind had shifted into a head wind into Turn 1, which I knew meant I could brake really late and deep into the corner.

"When I was racing karts I always remembered watching Fernando in 2011 starting from P4 and getting into the lead. I knew it was possible."

Race start

Race start

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Russell practiced his overtake on the laps to the grid, which further convinced him that it was a risk worth taking.

"I did four laps to the grid and practiced braking as late as possible on every single lap, so I knew where the limit was," he explained.

"I knew how strong the wind was and I knew what was possible with the car, so it was calculated risk. It was satisfying to pull off."

Russell wasn't able to enjoy his lead for long as Verstappen soon swooped past to take the lead, with the Briton eventually having to settle for fourth behind Norris and Hamilton.

By trying to cover off the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, Russell pitted earlier than desired, which forced him onto a final stint on hard tyres while Hamilton was able to go onto the faster softs.

"There were a few small things that went against us today. We had a slow pit stop which then put us on the back foot for the middle stint and under a bit of pressure," he added.

"Then I lost a lot of time fighting with Lando and then pitting onto the hard tyre was pretty rubbish.

"We knew the hard was not going to be a great tyre, but we wanted to split the risk between Lewis and me, because if we extended [the stint] there could potentially have been under threat from Charles.

"Obviously, I felt a little bit disappointed not to be on the podium but I was there last [to last] week and Lewis did a great job and as a team we are taking the positives from what has been a really promising couple of races."

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