Australian GP | George Russell on starting from the front row: “Excited for tomorrow.”

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The British driver has achieved the first front row of the season for Mercedes. His good afternoon started in Q1, where he had achieved P2 already, but he managed to score the impressive final finish again in Q3 with his final attempt, which left him 0.236s behind pole sitter Max Verstappen.

It was a great afternoon overall for the Mercedes team, as Lewis Hamilton ended the qualifying session in P3, after holding the provisional pole position ahead of Verstappen for a while, but in the end, the 2022 Brasil GP winner improved his teammate’s best shot.

Russell, who is looking forward to scoring his first podium of the 2023 season, was incredibly delighted to score such a result: “What a session that was for us! The car felt alive today and we weren’t expecting that result at all.”

However, he is not completely satisfied as he believes that his attempt could have warranted him the actual lead of the grid for tomorrow’s race start, whilst acknowledging that even yesterday a front row, or even a Top 5 finish would have come to him almost as a surprise.

In fact, during the practice sessions Russell hadn’t shined, barely making it into the top ten on Friday but in the top 5 earlier today: “The lap at the end was right on the limit; I’m a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get pole position.”

“But that’s one of those things in this sport. Your expectations change so quickly; we probably would have been happy with a top five result yesterday but today the car felt awesome. “

It’s a great encouragement for the Brackley-based team, constantly improving in these first rounds. After a single driver in the top 5 in Bahrain and a double Top 4 in Saudi Arabia, the time might have come for Mercedes to get on the podium in the new season.

“It goes to show we’ve got potential still to come. There is a lot of hard work going on back at the factory and here in Melbourne. I’m excited for tomorrow – it’s going to be tough against Max, but we’re definitely very happy to be lining up P2,” he concluded.

Asked in the post qualifying press conference if the result had come as a surprise to him, Russell confirmed it, but also explained the reasons why he was able to put together such a performance:

“Yes, it is a surprise, there’s no doubt about it. I think we’re learning more and 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, since 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, as Max alluded to, and the pace on that final lap was quite surprising. Really pleased to be just two and a half tenths off, when you know, we were a second off on other occasions.”

In spite of how “surprising” the front row came to him, the Mercedes driver assured that he is ready to fight for what would be his second Formula 1 win, even if it’ll be difficult with not many overtaking spots at Albert Park:

“We’ve got to go for it, haven’t we? We’ve got to go for a win. Max is going to be extremely fast, there’s no hiding that. I think it’s difficult to overtake around this circuit, so the start, lap one, is going to be vital – but the Red Bull has extraordinary top speed.”

So, it’s going to be very difficult to fight with Max. But let’s see. Let’s see how we get on. We’ve got to do our own race. If the opportunity is there, we will go for it,” he summed up in the end.