George Russell, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2023

Russell credits set-up changes for Mercedes’ “surprise” bid for pole position

2023 Australian Grand Prix

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George Russell admitted he was surprised by Mercedes’ performance in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix and disappointed to miss out on pole position.

He will line up alongside pole-winner Max Verstappen tomorrow after coming within 0.236 seconds of the Red Bull.

“We weren’t expecting that, that’s for sure,” Russell said after qualifying. “What a session for us.”

Having qualified around six tenths of a second off the pace in the opening two rounds of the year, Russell said his car felt much more competitive around the Albert Park circuit.

“The car felt alive,” he said. “The lap at the end was right on the limit.

“To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get pole position. It is one of those things how your expectations change so quickly in this sport. We probably would have been happy with a top four, top five yesterday, but the car felt awesome and it goes to show we’ve definitely got potential still to come.”

Mercedes have only brought minor upgrades to its W14 since the first race of the season in Bahrain. Russell said the gains they have made are the result of changing how they set the car up.

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“It is a surprise, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I think we’re learning more about this car.

“We know it’s not where we want it to be but it’s probably evolved just with the set-up from Bahrain to Jeddah to here. We’ve seen that performance improvement with the exact same car.

“For sure tyres played a big part this weekend and the pace on that final lap was quite surprising. Really pleased to just be two-and-a-half tenths off when we were a second off on other occasions.”

After being disappointed by their performance at the opening race Mercedes has already committed to overhauling its W14. Russell said what they have been able to achieve with the car in its current form gives them hope of begin consistently more competitive in the future.

“We know we’ve made some huge gains over the past two or three weeks in the wind tunnel and hopefully we’ll be bringing that to the track sooner or later,” he said.

“But this result today is going to give us a huge amount of confidence, regardless of what tomorrow brings over the course of the next four weeks. Because if we can deliver a performance like this with a car that is definitely quite a bit off the pace it shows good promise for when we bring the first upgrade.”

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2023 Australian Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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5 comments on “Russell credits set-up changes for Mercedes’ “surprise” bid for pole position”

  1. So they actually did an upgrade to the car.
    From 1 second different to .2 second to RBR.
    Or is it their car set up much suitable on this track?

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    1st April 2023, 11:09

    No way!? So you’re saying it sometimes takes a couple races to unlock the pace in your car!? Wow!!!! Who would have thought!?

    Shame that the season has already been declared over and everyone who said they won’t be watching any more will have missed this really close session.

    1. Which is confirmed by the few comments, luckily I never said I wouldn’t watch, and indeed I watched, although I was surprised myself by how close it was, until verstappen found more pace on the final lap.

  3. Big mistake George. This was all down to tyres and putting heat in them, which Mercedes and Red Bull couldn’t (relatively). I’m sure they can tweak better performance out of the current design, but they’ve already made the huge error of believing it’s ultimately ‘fixable’ and then abandoned that notion. Are they seriously going to repeat the same error? Or they just hope that the calendar is full of cool, damp races (it won’t be).

  4. Lewis taught those aero guys everything they know, but they failed. So, he had to go into Brackley and do the work himself.

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