“Hell of a lot of work to bring this turnaround” — Russell feels “pride” with Mercedes’ gains as they lock out the second row for F1 Spanish GP

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
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Qualifying right behind his teammate, George Russell will start the 2024 Formula One Spanish Grand Prix in P4. The Mercedes duo have locked out the second row of the grid, with Lewis Hamilton 0.002s faster.

“Two milliseconds is the biggest gap I’ve had for the last four races to a driver around me, so it’s crazy to think that. I take in the positives, you know, as a team we’re in the mix,” said Russell of the team’s qualifying position.

While he praised Norris’ lap, he was quick to comment on the lack of a clean lap by either of the Mercedes duo.

Russell felt as though both of them left a couple of tenths on the table in Q3. Nonetheless, they would not have been higher than where they were.

The Mercedes driver does remain optimistic about their prospects for a win tomorrow.

“I think Lando did a really great lap, I don’t think Lewis and I kind of really put it together perfectly, I felt like there was maybe two tenths on the table [but] not the gap that we saw to pole.

“But nevertheless, we’re P3, P4 and in a great place to fight for a win tomorrow.”

Russell also summarised the progress Mercedes’ progress with on track results over the past few race weekends, becoming a genuine contender for podium spots, as well as a win in Canada.

Updates to the car, including the front wing, has transformed the balance of the W15.

The British driver believes that they have an edge over the Maranello-based team, with 0.035s covering the four drivers in Q3.

“We’ve been at three circuits now and, in Monaco we were 20 milliseconds from qualifying third and would have been a podium. Canada was obviously great and here we’re on the second row and I think it’s going to be a good fight with Lando and Max tomorrow. I think we’ll probably just have the edge on Ferrari.

“But standing here with a lot of pride of what the team sort of achieved, it’s been a hell of a lot of work to bring this turnaround and bringing these upgrades consistently a race or two earlier than they were planned.”

Although they cannot be entirely sure that upgrades will work after the difficulties of 2022 and 2023, Russell expressed that this was the most confident Brackley-based team has been under this set of regulations.

“Well, you never know 100 percent, but this is for sure the most confident we have been over the last three years of what we’ve brought to the car. And I think this is natural as well, we’re all gaining experience, we’re all three years into these regs and I think we all know what makes a good race car in this sort of era.”

He further adds that the tightness of the field and the swings in performance between the top four teams is what Formula One should be aiming for every single year.

“I think it’s proven how tight it is out there with the top four teams at the moment, so, you know, it’s going to be probably in the coming races, marginal differences will make a big difference in terms of your grid position, but that’s what Formula One should be about.”

There was a heated radio from Russell towards the end of Q2 where he was questioning the positioning of his teammate’s car.

When asked to explain the incident, Russell explained both drivers were looking for a slipstream on the main straight from Ocon, backing the 39-year-old towards his teammate.

“Yeah, well, Lewis was quite a long way ahead of me, but I think we both had our eyes on the same driver for a slipstream.

“I was just focusing my mirrors not to impede Ocon and next thing I looked up and Lewis was right in front of me trying to take a tow from Ocon, so obviously in the moment when you’re trying to give it everything you’re a bit hot-headed, but nothing gained, nothing lost and there was nothing more to it.”

Focusing on tomorrow’s race, Russell stated that he doesn’t think overtaking over the layout will be difficult if you create a tyre delta, believing teams can also use tyre degradation to their advantage.

“I don’t think it’ll be that difficult to overtake because there’s a lot of tyre degradation here, so you’ve only got to offset yourself by two or three laps and suddenly just in the tyre you’ll probably have a 4-tenth advantage on the driver you’re battling.

“We’re obviously in a good position P3 and P4 strategically to do something different.

“Ultimately the quickest driver tomorrow will, nine times out of ten, win the race. It’s not like a Singapore or Monaco that if you find yourself in the lead you can defend it no matter how slow you are.”