Mercedes confident despite Russell’s car biting back in qualifying

George Russell says he knew there was plenty more time available for him to find on his final run in qualifying at the Mexico City Grand Prix but that he pushed too hard and was “bitten” by his car.

Mercedes has looked competitive all weekend and Russell was quickest in final practice, while Lewis Hamilton led the way in Q1 and Q2. The final part of qualifying saw Max Verstappen on provisional pole but with Russell threatening to beat his time, the Briton ran wide entering the Foro Sol at Turn 12 and had to settle for second place.

“It was a very difficult session for us,” Russell said. “The car’s been feeling great every single lap I’ve driven this whole weekend, in FP2 and FP3 obviously quickest in both session. Then my very first lap in Q1 it was just awful when I was really struggling! I was driving terribly and I had no rhythm whatsoever, so that first lap in Q3 was — I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a banker but it was a good lap, it was a clean lap, and I knew there was a lot more on the table.

“When I tried pushing further I just got bitten by the car and couldn’t complete the lap,” he said. “Started at Turn 5, I had a big, big oversteer moment, and then I locked up just trying too hard in sector three to make up. So I am disappointed because I feel like the team deserved the pole position today, the car’s been performing great, but ultimately the points are scored tomorrow and we’ll be going for that race win.”

Team principal Toto Wolff says the Mercedes pace was not unexpected, and with Hamilton starting third he believes the team has a chance of fighting for victory.

“For many years, Mexico wasn’t a good race for us because of the altitude,” Wolff said. “But the power unit guys have really given us a super strong engine and we suffer a lot less from our draggy car here, while running high downforce like all the others. Generally that has been a better place for us in the past.

“Our long runs were good, but then the Red Bull had a decent pace on the second and third flying lap and our tires degraded,” he continued. “So the honest answer is, I don’t know. I very much hope that we can be competitive.

“I think in all my life there is only a handful of occasions I have been confident, but never in Formula 1,” the team boss mused. “I’m annoyed about not being on pole, because it would have ticked a box, but equally having Max with his top speed advantage behind us would have been a problem tomorrow. And starting second and third can be advantageous and I hope we can stick our nose, or both noses, into Turn 1 and then disappear into the distance. Definitely that is going to be difficult.

“The good thing is that in our simulations we had that in a way on the radar – it being the best race – so that is good that it correlates with the real world. But the most important thing is that we really have the pace and slowly but surely we are going forward and learning the lessons for next year.”

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