George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Russell “gutted” to miss pole position after adjusting to “alien” Mercedes

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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George Russell said he was disappointed to miss pole position by just two-hundredths of a second in his first weekend with Mercedes.

Valtteri Bottas took pole position by just 0.026 seconds ahead of Russell, who is standing in for Lewis Hamilton.

Russell last tested for the team at the end of 2019. He said the short process of stepping up to the team has been a challenge.

“It’s been incredibly intense, so much stuff to learn. Getting used to the car, the seat, everything. It’s just so different, it felt really alien to begin with, just a very different way of driving. I’m trying to unlearn what I learned at Williams and relearn how to drive this car fast.”

Having led both practice sessions yesterday, Russell was slower in the final hour of running before qualifying this morning.

“I tried a lot of things in final practice and it didn’t go well at all so to be honest I’d’ve been happy just to get through to Q3 after final practice,” he said.

“So I’m really pleased, we got it all pretty much together on the final lap. Obviously I’m gutted to miss out on pole by 20 milliseconds but if you told me last week I’d been qualifying second on the grid I think I wouldn’t have believed you.”

Russell said he was pleased to have got so close to a drive who has “pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the years.

“I think statistically there’s only been a tenth between them and we all know how great Lewis is. So just to be right behind Valtteri, coming in last minute, two days of prep, I’m pleased. So let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

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Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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25 comments on “Russell “gutted” to miss pole position after adjusting to “alien” Mercedes”

  1. Just do your best to stay out of trouble tomorrow. I expect Verstappen to get him and maybe Bottas at the start due to #33 starting on soft tyres.

    1. I hope so because that could mean a nice 3 way fight at the front.. but I doubt it. I don’t know, but it seems the RBR with Honda engine struggles off the line. I remember they seemed to start better with the Renault engines. So I suspect them home in the same order.. I have more hope for a great fight for 4th. I suspect fireworks there

  2. Regardless of everything, but now that Russel got into Q3, got a car on the 1st row, how much will he have learnt, how much will he improve in furture races.

    Off course now the task will be to have a decent start (not expecting too much, since both guys starting in P2 last week struggled and Russel hasn’t had that great starts recently anyway) next. And to finally get points on the board, the target should be a podium. The hope will be a fight for the win.

    Bottas did seem to be in control, he wasn’t ahead by a lot (also was first on track so did not get any tow while giving both Bottas and Max behind a bit of one) but looking at their laps, he did never even get close to the limit in the most tricky parts of the track, so maybe if had known he badly needed more time (i.e. up against Hamilton), he would have maybe had a bit of time in hand. And he’s starting from the better side of the grid tomorrow.
    Bottas will be hoping for a good start, getting Russel to slot in right behind and keep Max busy for the first stint and to be building a gap. Max will be hoping for a good start and getting ahead of one or even better both Mercedes. If he gets one, maybe the undercut at the first stop can get him in the lead.

    Anyway, I really am curious to see how they all go. And where Leclerc ends up after this superb qualifying lap. And whether Perez will be able to fight for the podium.

  3. Not good for the salary negotiations for Lewis future contract. Knowing there is a good replacement available at much lower costs..
    Impressive performance by George. Of course not his first drive in that car but still. To be next to Bottas is some achievement by itself .

    1. lexusreliability?
      5th December 2020, 19:26

      Towing the Christian Horner and media narrative line I see. To think Russell being in the Merc for a couple of weekends is some sort of gamechanger is quite optimistic. This shows the difference between how Merc manage their drivers and how Red Bull manages their drivers.

      1. Max would consistently beat Bottas by half a second.

        This Merc is a rocketship.

    2. Total rubbish, the only way to know you have value for money is for Russell to go head to head with Hamilton over a season and see where he ends up, just like Hamilton did with Alonso.

      Russell did well today, let’s see how he deals with the pressure of the team expecting him to be on the podium.

      1. Pressure for what? Another tick in an arcane 1-2 statistic column? They have both titles. There’s no great pressure from the team on him, other than do do a professional job and not embarrass them/himself.

    3. Not good for the salary negotiations for Lewis future contract.

      So, do you really think that Lewis’ value to Mercedes related only to his driving? C´mon, dont be so naive…

      The guy is worldwide brand that offer an unvaluable marketing exercise to Mercedes brand.

      At the moment, he is more valuable as a brand than as driver. Lewis knows that and Mercedes will pay exactly what he wants.

  4. Don’t worry, Bottas will once again bottle up the start or the start phase.

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      5th December 2020, 19:05

      Will he change your opinion of him if he gets his first Grand Chelem tomorrow

    2. @jerejj
      I agree that Bottas’ starts haven’t been that great on average, but that is possibly mostly due to his starting positions. He has started 9 races out of 15 from the dirty side of the track.

      I don’t think Bottas has lost the lead at the start of the race in any of the four times he has been on pole this year.

    3. I mentioned this earlier today. Bottas has admittedly messed up and lost positions on lap 1 4 times this year. Hamilton may not have lost as many, but he has lost his pole position by the end of lap 1 3 times. Given the credit he gets, specifically talking about launching off the line, it isn’t all that great for him either. In Tuscany, Hamilton will have been P4 at best by the first few corners if not for Verstappen’s loss of power causing several to lift behind him.

      I also mentioned that in every other start this year (11), he hasn’t lost any positions at all, or sometimes gained some. Bottas getting a bad reputation for his starts in general by some isn’t really correct given that the vast majority of the time he’s been fine.

      1. I dont believe LH gets much credit for his starts. At least I have not heard that as part of the discussion on Lewis being such a great driver. He did have some small issues with his starts a few years back but that seems to have been resolved. Lewis is quite reserved in his driving on lap 1. He has been for some years. He knows all to well that a race cannot be won on lap 1 but it sure as hell can be lost.

  5. Nothing to do with Hamilton a 7x WDC records breaker global icon and game changer. Hamilton name is better known than F1 nowadays. It would be a coup (no pun intended) for F1 should Mercedes manage to retain Hamilton’s service though.

    1. I realize this is a UK centric site, but I feel a great number of commenters truly overestimate the popularity or impact of Lewis Hamilton (or any other current driver) worldwide. The numbers don’t lie. If you look at social media he has a minuscule amount of followers compared to other top-tier athletes in other sports. For the most part he would walk down the street unnoticed in Daimler’s two biggest markets (USA and China). Plenty of sports franchises or teams have let high priced stars walk away when a reasonable alternative surfaces at a much lower price.

  6. Predicting that he will get a great start tomorrow.

  7. If Russell with three days notice can match Bottas over one lap then you have to ask what he’d be doing if he had a pre-season, 16 race weekends in that car, the car was designed around Russell, Mercedes simulator work, etc.

    No doubt they’re taking notice at Daimler. Russell is a good $50 million per year cheaper than Hamilton.

    And if Mercedes don’t make an offer to Russell soon there’s a chance another team will.

    Mercedes would be mad not to make a concrete offer to Russell for 2022. I’d be bold and sign him up for 2021.

    Mercedes are going to have a similar performance advantage next season so both championships are guaranteed.

    Williams got rid of Hill at the end of 1996.

    1. Agree with every word of that.

      Sky mentioned a rumour of Renault looking at Gasly for 2022. Surely George has to be on everybody’s list at the end of any driver contract. I’ve rated him for a long time. He also interviews very well IMO. I’d think he’s a corporate dream.

    2. @deanfranklin There has been a question about the new boss at Daimler, but the way Wolff speaks of re-signing Hamilton as just a formality that can be done at any time, means there’s no need for speculation what the real situation is. There’s not even normal negotiation.

      Although it’s pretty clear now that Russell will indeed be in the running for the Mercedes seat post-Hamilton (if there will still be Mercedes then), and not just something Verstappen is guaranteed.

  8. The biggest loser today was Max. He just saw his chance of taking over for Lewis at Mercedes go up in smoke. Now he’ll have George, Lando, and Charles to worry about from his generation. 2022 can’t come soon enough. And everyone seems to have forgotten that had it not been for Claire Williams Merc would’ve already signed George to replace Bottas for next year. Lewis didn’t really care.

    1. This is interesting, has it been confirmed?

  9. Mark in Florida
    6th December 2020, 0:29

    I’m happy for George. He’s going beyond expectations in my book. He’s driving a strange car that’s not sized for him, that has different sight lines so his turn in reference is not at all the same as the Williams. I even think he had Valterri sweating it for a while. Bottas only out qualified him by a whisker not a dominant margin to stamp his authority on it. If George can do well tomorrow and prove he can deal with the situation he’s been thrust into that will be great for his future down the road. Some are saying that Merc can’t get rid of Lewis, don’t deceive yourselves on this point. I didn’t think Ferrari would get rid of Schumacher when he was still at the top of his game, but they did. Look at poor Perez. He’s crushing his teammate and running at the front but that didn’t matter in the end. Formula One doesn’t run on any particular rhyme or reason just secret deals.

    1. There’s no proof whatsoever they got rid of schumacher, everyone says different stories.

      A more creditable one is imo the one where ferrari wanted the young raikkonen at all costs, schumacher could stay but didn’t want his friend massa to lose the seat, so he left, maybe also considering that at age 38 he would’ve been in 2007 raikkonen could’ve been a lot of trouble, even though honestly, from how things went, he should’ve been fine in both that and 2008.

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