Sakhir Grand Prix – George Russell said that he was gutted to miss out on pole despite having to relearn everything to drive the ‘alien’ Mercedes car.
Russell’s whirlwind few days have seen him top both Friday practice sessions, have a difficult FP3 and very nearly secure his first ever pole and all while having to learn a new car and deal with great discomfort.
After getting the call to replace for seven-time champion, Lewis Hamilton, Russell said he has had to forget everything he’s learnt about driving the Williams car in the past two seasons in order to figure out how to drive the championship winning Mercedes.
“It’s been incredibly intense,” said Russell. “So much to learn getting used to the car, the seat, everything it’s just so different. It felt really alien to begin with and it’s just a really different way of driving to be honest, I’m trying to unlearn what I learnt at Williams and relearn how to drive this car fast.”
While he was quick on Friday, the Brit said he still had a lot of work to do but the changes he made for Saturday’s final practice session didn’t work out for the better, leaving him surprised to have made it to Q3 let alone narrowly miss pole.
“I tried a lot of things in FP3 and it didn’t go well at all so to be honest I’d have been happy just to get through to Q3 after the final practice. Really pleased, we got it pretty much all together at the final lap, obviously gutted to miss out on pole by twenty milliseconds but if you told me last week I’d be qualifying P2 on the grid next week, I think I wouldn’t believe you.”
“Valtteri 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. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
While looking forward to having a clear view at the start of the race, Russell isn’t as confident in his race skill as he is at qualifying. Indeed this is the first time in his Formula 1 career that the British driver has been out-qualified by his teammate.
“Obviously I’ve got nobody in front of me tomorrow which I’ve not experienced for a long, long time. It’s going to be tricky, it’s going to be really tricky. Qualifying’s what I feel most comfortable with, it’s just balls out everything you’ve got. Tomorrow you need a bit more control, a bit more finesse and I just haven’t had the experience yet, so giving it my all and we’ll see what we can do.”