George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Russell fastest on his Mercedes debut, Bottas fourth after damaging car

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix first practice

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George Russell led the first practice session for the Sakhir Grand Prix on his debut for Mercedes.

He set a quickest time of 54.546 seconds around the short ‘Outer’ Bahrain circuit which is being used for the first time as it holds the penultimate round of the championship.

Substituting for Lewis Hamilton, who tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this week, Russell led the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon.

His Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas was only fourth fastest. Team principal Toto Wolff said the pair were on “like for like” programmes but revealed a damaged bib on the underside of Bottas’s car caused lock-ups, hurting his lap times.

Pietro Fittipaldi, Haas, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Fittipaldi also made his debut for Haas…
“Valtteri broke his car pretty early on in the session on the bib,” said Wolff. “You could see that towards the long runs at the end.”

Russell began the 90 minutes of running well down the order, sitting in seventh while Bottas came out of the pits to take the top time. While Russell exchanged detailed set-up notes with his engineer, the times were comfortably topped by Bottas and the Red Bulls for the first half of the practice session.

However, once Russell got up to speed he was virtually immovable from the top spot. Verstappen briefly dislodged him, before Russell reclaimed the fastest time with the best lap of the session. All times were set on soft tyres, drivers able to make surprisingly long runs on them, still setting times after ten or more laps, thanks to the short, low-energy lap.

The AlphaTauri pair were in the mix, splitting the Red Bull and Mercedes cars at various points. Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly led the midfield by over a tenth of a second, despite the very short lap time, when the chequered flag fell.

Gasly suffered a broken right wing mirror early on in the session, forcing him to hold on to it with his left hand as he drove back to the AlphaTauri pits. Charles Leclerc also went for a short excursion through the gravel around turns five and six but kept the car going and the session was otherwise pretty clean, without any substantial yellow flag periods.

Jack Aitken, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
…as did Aitken at Williams
Grand Prix debutant Pietro Fittipaldi, substituting for Romain Grosjean at Haas, was the first car out on track but struggled to get a clear run in. He and fellow newcomer Jack Aitken ended up last in the times. Both lost running after badly flat-spoting sets of tyres in the first hour of the session. Fittipaldi, in particular, missed most of the latter half of running and only completed 24 laps.

McLaren seemed noticeably out of order, finishing the session with Carlos Sainz Jnr 13th and Lando Norris 16th, behind both Racing Point and Renault cars in their fight for third in the constructors’ trophy. The top 10 was therefore completed by the Renault and Ferrari drivers.

Several drivers ran wide at the turn seven and eight chicane, but new track limits rules will come into force for the second practice session. “Track limits at turn eight from second practice will be the red and white kerb,” Max Verstappen’s engineer advised him shortly before the session ended.

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2020 Sakhir Grand Prix First Practice classification

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
163George RussellMercedes0’54.54649
233Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda0’54.7220.17629
323Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda0’54.8110.26518
477Valtteri BottasMercedes0’54.8680.32244
526Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri-Honda0’55.0110.46540
610Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda0’55.1660.62037
731Esteban OconRenault0’55.2730.72749
85Sebastian VettelFerrari0’55.2810.73540
93Daniel RicciardoRenault0’55.3790.83339
1016Charles LeclercFerrari0’55.4490.90335
1118Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes0’55.5581.01241
1211Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes0’55.7161.17033
1355Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault0’55.7571.21141
147Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari0’55.7831.23732
1599Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari0’55.8581.31235
164Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault0’56.0781.53247
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari0’56.1301.58437
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes0’56.7642.21848
1951Pietro FittipaldiHaas-Ferrari0’57.0772.53124
2089Jack AitkenWilliams-Mercedes0’57.1872.64133

First practice visual gaps

George Russell – 0’54.546

+0.176 Max Verstappen – 0’54.722

+0.265 Alexander Albon – 0’54.811

+0.322 Valtteri Bottas – 0’54.868

+0.465 Daniil Kvyat – 0’55.011

+0.620 Pierre Gasly – 0’55.166

+0.727 Esteban Ocon – 0’55.273

+0.735 Sebastian Vettel – 0’55.281

+0.833 Daniel Ricciardo – 0’55.379

+0.903 Charles Leclerc – 0’55.449

+1.012 Lance Stroll – 0’55.558

+1.170 Sergio Perez – 0’55.716

+1.211 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 0’55.757

+1.237 Kimi Raikkonen – 0’55.783

+1.312 Antonio Giovinazzi – 0’55.858

+1.532 Lando Norris – 0’56.078

+1.584 Kevin Magnussen – 0’56.130

+2.218 Nicholas Latifi – 0’56.764

+2.531 Pietro Fittipaldi – 0’57.077

+2.641 Jack Aitken – 0’57.187

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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139 comments on “Russell fastest on his Mercedes debut, Bottas fourth after damaging car”

  1. More of Bottas’ bad luck I guess.

    1. Is it just me, or is Bottas constantly damaging his car?

      1. Otherwise how can he justify himself? lolz

  2. Early doors, but sensational start from Russell!

    3 1/10ths over a 55s lap!

    (Calm down, it’s only practice 1…)

    1. Sooo, how mediocre is Hamilton then. Bottas competed with post-accident Massa. And we all know how fast he was.

      1. Maybe, just maybe, the young George Russell is a potential Hamilton in the making. If you have not already, take some time to study his laps in the Williams ( Imola SC restart excepted :D ). Russell demonstrates remarkable precision driving, in what must be a very tricky car to drive on the limit.

        I rate Russell very highly and obviously, so does Toto Wolf. No one is more qualified than Toto to make this judgement call, after all he has Lewis Hamilton as the benchmark at his disposal.

        If you are looking for evidence that Hamilton just lucked into 95 wins, 98 poles, 7 WDCs – it’s gonna be a long search…

      2. lexusreliability?
        4th December 2020, 17:21

        @Initially

        So how mediocre is Alonso then? Cost his team $100m because he couldn’t beat Hamilton fair and square. I think we know who you are despite the different names.

        1. Who I am? Different names? Is this some way to try and discredit my opinion by making up an imply about me having different names? Funny.

          1. lexusreliabilty?
            4th December 2020, 18:36

            It’s my way of saying the propaganda sounds awfully familiar.

          2. “…my imply”? I smell a bot.

      3. Yes, Hamilton is clearly very mediocre. All those wins and championships for such a mediocre driver is just unbelievable. Oh wait, that’s it – it is unbelievable that a mediocre driver could achieve all that even in a great car.

        It may be that we’re about to see the emergence of the next “mediocre” driver.

    2. Interesting the gap between Russell and Verstappen is bigger than any other gap until you get down to Magnussen and Latifi…

  3. People making useless comparisons of driver’s pace based on FP1 in three, two, one…

    1. Looks like you didn’t even need to give that countdown for the Russell hype train to build up a head of steam.

      As you say, it probably isn’t a great idea to rush to conclusions on the back of a single practice session around a track with a fairly weird layout.

      1. But you can credit him for adapting immediately, not binning the car, and outpacing Bottas (with or without ‘minor damage’). I also fail to see what a ‘weird layout’ has got to do with it. In fact the opposite, it means raw talent and adaptability is to the fore, rather than circuit familiarity.

        1. Well certainly Russell probably showed himself to his best @david-br, though it is a bit early to just write off Bottas for the weekend (how often has he been a Q1 winner – saw that mentioned for Russell above, bit silly, but shows that nothing is lost for him), as he just needs to get a good qualifying, where he has shown he can fight for pole, which isn’t an experience Russell has in F1, followed by a clean race where he has every chance to win.

          1. @bosyber Sure, Bottas may pick up the pace, win qualifying and the race. However, I think it’s an impressive start and also presume Russell can still improve too. Pole may be less of an issue than starting the race anywhere near the top, which seems to be an issue for many drivers. What will be really interesting to see, though, will be Russell’s race pace and tyre management relative to Bottas, aside from any wheel-to-wheel racing that may happen (with Verstappen say), as those are the areas where Hamilton really outperforms Bottas.

        2. @david-br the problem I have is that, in many ways, this thread seems to be exhibiting many of the worst traits of the fan base.

          The extreme rush to judge drivers, the extreme hyperobolic praise and condemnation and the tribalistic behaviour of some posters here, the over-eagerness of some to stick the boot in to Bottas – it does seem that quite a few are really overreacting to that first practice session.

          After all, in the case of Bottas, it looks like Mercedes were using that FP1 sessions with an eye on collecting data for 2021 development parts – so how applicable that session is isn’t entirely clear, but that hasn’t stopped people from making quite extreme remarks. Yes, the session had positives for Russell, but there are some who are really getting far too carried away in their reaction.

          1. All true, but what I hoped to see from Russell was immediately showing good pace (near to Bottas at least) and showing he can take the sudden pressure. If he messes up this weekend, fair enough, the same if he drives almost perfectly and wins the race. It’s only a start. But handling all this pressure at the front is essential. If Hamilton goes, Mercedes can’t afford a Gasly-Albon situation of taking a year or two to settle. And likewise, for Russell, I hope he can show the kind of rapid adaptation seen from Verstappen and Leclerc (or indeed Hamilton and Vettel before them).

          2. Agreed. Not much in the way of conclusions can be drawn from FP1 times.

            Nonetheless, a solid showing from Russell for a first outing. Did what he needed to do and didn’t crack under the pressure.

          3. @david-br Russell stayed that he was going to take it steady and build up pace. Ricciardo does the same thing.

            The fact he started slow indicates nothing, as he was deliberately and knowingly going slow and taking it steady.

            If anything, it shows great maturity.

  4. I do wonder if George wins on Sunday, does it make Merc have second thoughts about resigning Lewis, and make them think “Ok we could pay Lewis $70 million to drive for us again 2021 or we could pay a fraction of that to George Russell and still win everything”.

    1. One race won’t undo the work of someone who’s won 6 drivers and 7 constructors championships for them.

      1. It might against poor teammates though.

        1. Yep. And team-mates were the only competition. He even got beaten by one of them. And very very nearly two times more.

          1. The problem is that, by that logic, all of the winners of the WDC have to be dismissed as poor because all of them managed to lose to a team mate during their careers.

      2. @ppzzus
        The past doesn’t matter. Right now Mercedes don’t need Hamilton.
        They should get rid of him and hire george asap.

        1. If anything bottas is the one in trouble.

          As if two FP sessions mean anything.

    2. Just imagine if they dropped a 7 time world champion for a guy who finished top in FP1.

      Lewis has gone toe to toe with the best and won. Alonso, Kimi, Vettel, Max, Charles , Danny Ric, Button, schumi

      Russel has got a good future but let’s keep things in check.

      1. get outa here with your humour and facts, :)

      2. Max Charles Ric Schui? You need to check your stats

    3. @t1redmonkey Or they could have done themselves and us a favour and signed him already in place of Bottas. They’d have two exceptional drivers, the junior learning from the senior, and we’d have a more interesting campaign to watch.

    4. No question … in fact George wouldn’t need to win for this idea to have merit.
      If Mercedes wants to promote the concept that “We design and build the best cars in the world” you can better achieve this with a rookie at the wheel than a 7 times WC. Saving 65 million on the side … bonus.
      This is going to be one heck of an interesting 9 days.

      1. @rekibsn I completely disagree.

        Hamilton is a 7xWDC and a global icon. Love him or hate him a lot of people know who he is and a big brand needs a star name. Just look at Aston Martin and Vettel for example. Mercedes can easily afford Hamilton and will make much more from advertising and from worldwide fans than they will with Russell. He’s also proved he’s one of the greatest of all time and shown he can handle pressure and bring home Championships. Russell is a good driver, but to suggest that he’s in contention for Hamiltons seat based on one FP1 session at a completely random track is beyond naive.

        1. Rather than “beyond naieve” it’s more wishful thinking by the desperate, those praying for hamilton to befall some sort of misfortune. Pretty unlikely Hamilton will lose his seat for 21 unless he decides it will be so and retires.
          As you say the global brand advertising power of having a household name and the most winningest driver in history breaking the ton for both poles and wins in a Mercedes and aiming to win an unheard of 8th WDC is likely to be worth far more than the savings they make by swapping him for whatsisname Russell (as most of the world will view him). I would like to have seen Russell given the 2021 drive over Bottas, but I’m fairly sure he’ll be in the team for 2022 if they are competeing, the question is whether that is with Ham or Bot in the other car…..and wether the Merc will still be top dog after all the formula changes.

      2. Ye, they don’t need all the publicity and major sponsors that Hamilton brings ($50 million from Hilfiger, etc). They don’t need to show any loyalty; so all the engineers and other staff who have stayed loyal can now depart for the big money offers they have had from elsewhere. They can also send a clear message to the Maxs and Charles of this world that we don’t need you until we start struggling; but once we have the success that you help bring, we will dump you. And Wolff can also rip up his management handbook that has bought them total success over the last 7 years

      3. Let’s not forget this is the same George Russell that binned his car behind the SC only two races ago! So yeah, after one good practice session, let’s replace a 7xWDC and proven winner with a long shot. And I say this as someone who thinks Russell is the real deal.

    5. You should be running Mercedes bro! Brilliant idea.

    6. @t1redmonkey I think you’re ignoring that LH is family at Mercedes and they will want to do everything in their power to help him win an 8th if not more WDC(s) while the opportunity is there. I doubt that money is an object for them in terms of whatever will constitute LH’s contract. To suggest GR could just step in and replace LH and duplicate his success for a fraction of the money is to diminish what LH does over a season, and suggests it is merely 100% the car, and we all know it is only 80% to 95% of it depending on which expert you ask. The rest comes down to a driver’s abilities, particularly his ability to handle pressure when it is at it’s greatest, and of that we have seen nothing from GR for he has not been in the highest of pressure situations.

      Put another way, if Mercedes were to cut LH loose in favour of GR that would imho be about the most classless move a team could make on a driver, as I say particularly while he has the opportunity to better the tie for WDCs with MS, and imho that will never be achieved again due to the change in philosophy for F1.

    7. I very much doubt Mercedes values Hamilton’s association with them as less than his salary. If this was only about running a team profitably (purely the racing operation, with no thought of marketing effect), then you may have a point, but as it stands it would make little sense to drop Hamilton unless he wanted to go.

      If Russell does well against Bottas, particularly if he were to win the race, then if I were Mercedes I would consider fast-tracking George into the team alongside Hamilton, to learn from him.

      Russell does have the potential to be part of the next generation of talent, alongside Max, LeClerc etc. If he’s good enough, bedding him in to eventually take over the reigns from Hamilton makes sense to me. Bottas has neither the marketability of Hamilton, or the future potential of Russell. He is the expendable one.

    8. Well no other team will pay Hamilton the obscene amount MB is paying him, because no other team has the budget MB has. I would have thought this would give MB the upper hand in any negotiations with LH, but in reality it seems like LH has the upper hand. I just don’t get it.

      1. @aliced I personally don’t think of it as who has the upper hand. This is a family we are talking about. They’ll come to a friendly and amicable agreement imho. Of course MB is the boss, but they garner so much marketing value not to mention actual results on the track that LH has much weight too. Both sides know that. Both sides know it is by far in each other’s best interest to keep the relationship going.

  5. Yesterday I said that I expected Russell to be on the pace right away, there were some people calling me deluded. There were actually some who claimed that Lou td would be a good result for George this weekend.

    Mercedes is not only by far the fastest car, but also the easiest car to drive on the grid. Any real talent should be rapid in that car right away. Likewise, Bottas is a fairly mediocre driver, so it’s not like Russell is up against a high benchmark.

    1. There were actually some who claimed that Lou td would be a good result for George this weekend.

      *Points, autocorrect

      1. @kingshark I think your phone needs an update if “Lou td” is its guess at “points” :D

      2. Wait, what? Your phone autocorrected ‘points’ to ‘Lou td’?

        1. Time to get a new phone I guess

        2. Nik (@nickelodeon81)
          4th December 2020, 15:44

          Must have mind reading capability

  6. Great start from Russell – it’s only FP1 but that’s got to give him a nice bit of confidence. Even if (and it’s a big “if”) Bottas would be faster than him without damage, he’d still be 2nd in his first run for the team.

    This session would have been all about getting used to the car so you’d think he still has a lot more pace still to show.

    1. Good point. If Russell beats the red bulls on Sunday he will have done a great job irrespective of where bottas finishes.

  7. Wow, is Bottas crumbling already??

    1. Bottas suffering damage at every single race since Imola is starting to get boring.

      Either he’s pushing too much and damaging the cars or he has some seriously rotten luck. Or maybe he can’t see debris on track?

      Because he suffered damage at Imola, Turkey, Bahrain 1 and now today. And it’s always moderate damage, nothing that prevents him from racing, it just slows him down…

  8. Well, at the very least Russell has done the first bit, not damaged the car (unlike his team mate, supposedly) and set some impressive lap times. Personally I’m confident he can win the race, barring mishaps, as I expect the Mercedes to be the fastest car and Russell to be the fastest driver. He just needs to maintain the level head shown so far. Great job.

  9. Like we all said, it’s the Car not the driver!

    1. Rodber straight in there. Maybe Russell is also quite good?

      1. Might be better than Lewis?

        1. Is this your new fake name Oconomo?

          1. We never know.

      2. He must be better than quite good then. Must be god like considering Hamiltons status.

      3. Indeed, how disappointed would all the Hamilton detractors be if he’s eventually replaced by, Russell then who goes on to be a serial champion?

    2. Nik (@nickelodeon81)
      4th December 2020, 15:40

      Prey tell, what is Bottas driving?

      1. @nickelodeon81
        Soon enough, fans will realize that Bottas is in fact a mediocre driver and has always been

        1. Nik (@nickelodeon81)
          4th December 2020, 15:46

          But…but … apparently it’s not the driver. It’s the car…..

          1. I mean, Bottas’ car is apparently broken and still beat 16 other cars….

          2. Well, we now see the curious cognitive dissonance that will be required to claim that it is only the car when it is necessary, and then claims it is driver ability when it is needed to bash another driver.

          3. Yeah, logic has never been a strong point of the “it’s the car” brigade.

        2. Didn’t everyone know that already!?

          1. Do you think now is a good time for Lewis to pick up that phone and call Binotto?
            While the going is still good?

    3. It is simple. The Merc is the best car, run by the best team, b and driven by the best drivers available.

      Russell is in that seat because he’s the most promising driver they could put in it this weekend.

      Bottaa is in his seat because he is very quick in qualifying, races is quite well, and doesn’t throw a tantrum every time he gets beaten by Hamilton.

      I don’t see why we would think either the car or the drivers do this all by themselves.

      1. On the Marbles
        4th December 2020, 17:04

        Good point, and very logical. However logic doesn’t get a look in when sad people are scrabbling for desperate reasons to trash Hamilton in order to make them feel better about themselves.

        1. I think it’s fair to ask for hamilton to drive a bit worse car (red bull?) before saying he’s the best driver ever etc., no other driver drove as many years in a dominant car as hamilton did.

  10. “it’s not the car”

    1. Well go watch Nurburgring 2011 or some of his rookie races. Or maybe go watch Istanbul where Max chucked the win away, you know the redbull was an absoloute beast that day when Albon was a few seconds behind in horrible conditions for half the race. Or what about today barely beating Albon a poor mans Jolyon Palmer. If Hamilton was in the car today and Russel beat him then sure.

      I am just glad the people who said he was bad because he could’nt score a point in Williams look. This man made Lando look silly many a time who as give Sainz all he can handle in raw speed.

  11. Interesting indeed. Let’s wait and see for FP2 and FP3

  12. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    4th December 2020, 15:41

    Really shows the car is what Lewis got him his last few titles and how poor Bottas really is. This also means that Schumi is and will always be (and was) the only true champion of them all. LAst few titles from Lewis haven’t been worth anything at all.

    Anyone can become champion with that car, unless your name is Valtteri and you were ‘alright’ in a Williams before.

    1. Nik (@nickelodeon81)
      4th December 2020, 15:42

      You get that all from a single practice session. Remarkable.

      1. To be honest, I felt the championship in the ‘Schumacher’ years were more interesting to watch than the ‘Mercedes’ years

    2. LOL!! The entertainment has arrived

      Let’s airbrush the 2008, 2017 and 2018 seasons out of history. Oh and the 2009, 2010 and 2012 ones and you might be onto a winner

    3. @barryfromdownunder Despite the fact that one doesn’t compile the kinds of numbers LH and MS have without a dominant car, let’s recall that MS, your ‘only true champion’ needed a designer car with designer tires, and that was the case because his teammates were literally under contract to not compete (see Austria 2002 post-race interview with Barricello for proof of that), he had the luxury of unlimited testing, and he still felt the need to be a bully on the track.

      1. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
        4th December 2020, 17:36

        tl:dr. Cope more

        1. Ha, ha, ha! Says the person not coping.

    4. Anyone can become champion with that car

      Then, please explain to me why Mercedes are prepared to pay Hamilton 40 million per year when, according to you, anyone can be a champion in that car? As Wolff said “other drivers need to ask themselves why they aren’t driving a Mercedes.”

    5. This is a ridiculous statement. When Schumacher broke his leg, he was replaced by Mika Salo and almost won his second race. He would’ve won the 1999 German GP if the Ferrari team didn’t pull team orders and make him pull over for Eddie Irvine so that he can get points for the championship.

      Your statement would be like me saying that Mika Salo is better than Schumacher based on his performance in one grand prix…or Eddie Irvine is just as good as Schumacher because he almost won Ferrari’s first title in 20 years, during the 1999 season.

      So I guess 14 years of beating championship caliber teammates/rivals and 7 world championships is worthless based on two practice sessions? Lol…so silly.

    6. Indeed, I think the same too, hamilton is driving well but is overall not having competition compared to other top drivers like schumacher, prost, senna and so on, the car is too superior to the others around atm and it’s been several years this happens. Schumacher won titles where his car wasn’t dominant at all, 94, 95, 00, 03, hamilton? 2018 thanks to vettel’s race to spin as many times as possible? And 2008 ofc.

  13. Well done George! You’ve got this. Been waiting a long time to see George in a competitive car. Hes def the man to take the British Batton on from Lewis! Norris…not so much.

  14. I think it’s fair to say anyone can be a champion in the Merc. 100%

    I would also say there is no one on the grid that can beat Lewis Hamilton to WC in the same car unless LH has Covid or DNF.

    Man Bottas looked troubled in that session.

    1. Bottas not been the same since LH lapped him and the rest of the field at Turkey.

      Minus LH, Max is the best driver on the grid. He should be favourite , why is no one talking about this. He should be winning this race and if he does not, looks bad on him.

      1. Because Max is in the second fastest car.
        Max can drive the Red Bull above its potential, but even that’s not enough to unseat nearly anyone in the Merc.

        George put the Merc in P1 in his first outing. Max and Alex P2/P3. Then Bottas in a broken car came P4.

        What that tells me is that the Red Bull is:
        1) Still slower than a first-timer in a Mercedes
        2) Just barely faster than a broken Mercedes

        I like Max a lot, but he’s not the favorite to win. He always has an outside chance due to Mercedes error since he’s usually able to be right behind them, but so far this season, he’s never been the outright favorite on pace alone.

        1. I watched the first practice and what that told me is that Max will be faster once he learns to keep it on the track.

      2. Yep. Max and Bottas are under pressure and Max needs to beat Bottas to fight for second in championship, it will be interesting.

        Russell is good, everybody following his racing career knows this and I would not be shocked if he outqualified Bottas. However, for Sunday my Money is on Max.

        1. @jcost I’m of course pulling for Max too, but just as an aside it is only the win that he is interested in and as he said last weekend he really doesn’t care if he comes second or third in the WDC. Neither is meaningful to him…just wins and WDC(s). On the other hand though as I think of it, I would think VB would/should be bothered if Max does take second from him in the end, for look at the car VB has. Of course if that happens VB will console himself with the issues he has had this season (and will conveniently forget about Max’s issues and the fact that he is not in the WCC car).

          1. Yes, Bottas is under pressure for sure.

      3. Ben I think you seemed to have missed the nuance, as described by Max, that this type of track simply doesn’t suit a car that is a bit down on power. Of course we’ll just have to see how it plays out come Sunday regarding tire wear etc, but in general this is not the type of track to be expecting Max to have the car for vs. Mercedes given the low downforce settings and the lack of low speed corners that would normally favour RBR. The more twisty bits and the less straightaways the better for a car that handles quite well but lacks in top end for long straights. If GR and VB have straightforward races Max may not be able to touch them.

    2. Anyone? Hmmm…. Bottas might have to disagree with you on that. So, anyone, apart from Bottas, according to you? Bottas is worst driver on the grid?

      1. Anyone can be WC in the Merc, yes. It’s the fastest car and if you don’t have LH as your team mate.

        How many could beat LH to be WC? None.

        1. @Ben
          Well, Even Bottas beated Lewis sometimes.
          One might argue if Verstappen would wipe the floor with him, or…

        2. I would say verstappen and leclerc should really be able to compete with hamilton for a wdc, they just have less experience, but I think you can’t exclude them before they get a chance in the same car.

          Apart from that there’s other good drivers like sainz, perez, russel etc. who never had a chance at a top team and are even harder to gauge.

  15. This is a really impressive start for Russell. Next we get to see if he can develop the set-up of the car and get the best out of it in Quali and the race.

    Also, I wonder if, after this session, we are finally going to see people realising/admitting that Mercedes’ advantage is down to their chassis and not the power unit? Where are the other Mercedes-powered cars? In the bottom half of the grid!

    1. it’s both: best PU and best chassis

      1. @anunaki And best driver in Hamilton. The fact that Russell has proved equal to (Wolff-speak) or faster than (reality) Bottas doesn’t detract from that fact. Unless of course an entire career of superlatives for Hamilton’s driving from everyone actually in Formula 1 is meaningless.

    2. @robbie Money will come into it since last year MB announced 10,000 job losses. The same people who would have made that decision will need to approve Lewis’ contract. There will be clear sensitivities and there is a new Daimler chairman who may take a different view.

      Lewis’ will probably be able to demonstrate that he is worth the salary (eg increased car sales in key demographics, 8th WDC publicity etc) relative to alternatives but it will be a much harder sell I think.

      However still I don’t think there is any real danger of Lewis losing the seat even if Russell blitzes Bottas.

      1. Was meant to be posted much further up, not sure what happened!

      2. @chimaera2003 I would think LH has already done plenty to ‘demonstrate that he is worth the salary’ and is indeed an investment for Mercedes not a liability. That said, sure perhaps the new reality is he may make a little less, or maybe the contract will be shaped a little differently, but let’s face it it will be in the many many millions nonetheless, and perhaps since he has hinted he’d like to travel less for example, then yeah maybe he’ll make a little less, but it will still be mega imho.

        But your last sentence..it just seems so bizarre to me to even suggest if GR ‘blitzes’ VB it is LH who would have to worry about his seat. It is my 100% belief LH will be at Mercedes for as long as he would like to be, and if GR blitzes VB it is VB that needs to worry about his next ride. For now it would appear VB is safe for next year, unless they pull a ‘Perez’ on him.

        1. @robbie If GR blitzes VB, the rumour mill will be out of control as it gives something for people to get their teeth into and argue about (have you seen this website!!!).

          But yes, you are right in that looking at it from a stone-cold pragmatic point of view that there virtually no risk (there is never truly no risk) of Lewis losing the seat if he still wants it.

          Even if GR did blitz VB, I think it would be too expensive to justify a ‘Perez’ as he is still generally quick enough to do the job needed given the car advantage.

          1. @chimaera2003 Lol for sure re the rumour mill. The rumour mill already included GR at Mercedes before it was announced LH would have to sit out due to Covid.

  16. People have talked about the pressure that is on Bottas and Russell this weekend, but to some degree there must be some pressure on Lewis, too. If Russell can jump in that car and immediately outpace Bottas, surely that will make some of Lewis’ victories look a little less special. Not saying that Lewis doesn’t deserve them, but it will take a bit of the shine off.

    I know it’s just FP1!!

    1. Not so much if Russell is the real deal as well (as some of us believe).

  17. Ham is the ‘goat’ his rabid fans keep trying to proclaim!

    Maybe just maybe he’s an OK driver with the most dominant car and slickest team in history and a string of very average teammates (Alonso excluded).

    Its certainly not looking good for his flimsy legacy.

    1. Nik (@nickelodeon81)
      4th December 2020, 16:00

      Fernando Alonso –> 2 WDCs
      Jenson Button –> 1 WDC
      Nico Rosberg –> 1 WDC

      Yep, Lewis has only ever had average team mates….

      Rolleyes:

      1. It’s almost not worth replying. Bottas is a good driver, probably around middle of the grid on talent. He also happens to be hardworking and fair. Both qualities Mercedes value. Drivers like Leclerc, Norris, Ricciardo are very good. Even Vettel in the right circumstances. A few like Hamilton and Verstappen are exceptional (though the latter has yet to show he can win a championship – almost certain he can, but it has to be posed as a question). Plenty of pundits would put Russell up there as a candidate for exceptional: read the recent comments of other young drivers of his generation – Norris, Leclerc, Albon etc. – and they certainly do so. So it’s neither a surprise he can lead FP1 nor a disqualification of Hamilton’s own merit. But obviously there will be a bunch of flat earthers on here to do that.

    2. lexusreliability?
      4th December 2020, 17:29

      @Paul Jones

      Be honest. How long have you been watching F1? I sense a casual.

    3. Yeah, sure. An “OK driver” can win seven WDCs and nearly 100 races. Right.

    4. I like any comment that tries to diminish LH’s standing cause I also think he’s not THAT great, he could be a very good driver but not worthy of the best of f1 etc.

      However I also think alonso is particularly good and to be able to match him in the first year was something big.

  18. Hamilton’s steering wheel with orange ‘N’ button in place of the yellow DRS and slightly different DRS light indication while the rest the same as Hamilton’s. I didn’t expect this hybrid, but 100% either Hamilton’s or Bottas’ at this short notice.

  19. Should Lewis have signed that contract by now instead of dragging out negotiations lol?
    I mean Russell must be cheap, and he’s still young too.
    That Toto is a sly old Woolff!

  20. Is this the shortest ever F1 lap?

    I think some of the old French tracks – Dijon and the short Paul Ricard one – were close to a minute or just under.

    1. @bullfrog In terms of distance, no. Dijon in 1974 was 2.044 miles long (the only time F1 ran there before the parabolica extension which was still only 2.361 miles). The Bahrain outer circuit is 2.202 miles.

      In terms of time, yes. The lap times at Dijon were longer, only Niki Lauda on pole qualified in the 58 second range in 1974. This increased after the extension, pole was around 72 seconds in 1977. By the final race there in 1982, 61 seconds.

      Considering the FP1 times of 54s today, unless there is a heavy downpour tomorrow, we’ll have the shortest pole lap ever in F1.

  21. I’m not gonna foreshadow something because there’s two more practices, qualifying and then race day to come.

  22. It always seems to be something with Bottas. Immediately the excuses come out for why he isn’t beating Russell.

  23. We still don’t know if Lewis is going to renew his contract… He may not want to be up against Russell next year.

    1. lexusreliability?
      4th December 2020, 18:01

      @dutchtreat

      Alonso, Button, Rosberg. Yes I’m sure Hamilton will be quaking in his boots at the prospect of facing George.

      1. Well, he should.
        Because the young prospect may well REPLACE him for one tenth of his salary.

    2. Well, Russell and Hamilton are very unlikely to be in the Mercedes team next year. Russell is driving for Williams and Bottas is driving for Mercedes. For Hamilton and Russell to end up driving for Mercedes in 2021, a lot of money will have to be thrown at Williams and Bottas. F1 contracts are barely worth the paper they’re written on, but I can’t see it happening.

    3. Yes, It’s only that brave Mr Verstappen who dares to go up against rookies. Ham tends to play it safe by sticking with other WDCs as team mates. Can’t see Hamilton ever wanting to face the might that is Albon.

      1. Ahaha, hamilton afraid of albon? Thought I’d have liked a driver swap between albon and hamilton, with red bull at the level of this year I think hamilton and verstappen could’ve been serious competition for bottas and could’ve still demolished albon at mercedes.

  24. All times were set on soft tyres, drivers able to make surprisingly long runs on them, still setting times after ten or more laps, thanks to the short, low-energy lap

    Didn’t quite get this. If it is a high speed lap, you would need more energy right?
    Setting times after 10 laps could be because tires are taking longer to warm up as there are barely any corners here
    Like in Indy 500 where your successive laps become faster (where they take a total of 4 consecutive qualifying laps as your qualifying time)

  25. As long as Hamilton is in the sport, Russell won’t have a drive with Mercedes. Mercedes have exactly what they want. Consistant drivers & constructors championships & a second driver that rarely tests Hamilton.

    Hamilton will be here 2-3 more years. That’s a long time for Russell to wait.

    1. Russell may replace Hamilton, even next year.

  26. Mercedes very good car, Russel good driver. Put Ves, Leclerc, Ric, Gaslly in that car and get the same results or better.

  27. Only quickly logged on here to see how George got on. That’s brilliant. Yes it’s only practice but still. Imagine going back to driving the Williams after this

    1. i hope he takes back a wealth of confidence and knowledge.

  28. Clearly, Mercedes don’t need Hamilton.
    As good as he is, they could win with Bottas and Russell, while spending half of the salary Lewis is asking.
    I bet Lewis has turned off his phone, lol!

    1. “get in there, george!”, turns off phone!

  29. Not sure what i like more. Russell on P1…..fast/short laps, or that the gaps between the bunch, actually 10 cars within the first second.

  30. I think that it is exactly how it looks. The car is fast. And yes it does minimize Hamilton’s achievements to a degree. And it pins those achievements to Merc instead. No way around it.

    1. Exactly, hamilton had an exceptional car on average and with a standard car that other great drivers get over the years I think he’d be very similar to someone like senna, they also have the same feature to be exceptional in qualifying and in the rain.

  31. when actually its going to take the next 200 odd races to find out if George is as good as Hamilton (Sheesh)

    Its just practice !! FFS

    by all means though — GO GEORGE !

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