“It’s a strange sport sometimes,” says George Russell. At the last race in Melbourne, the Mercedes driver had started from the front row, but in qualifying in Baku on Friday he had to give up in eleventh place in Q2.
“We just weren’t fast enough this weekend,” the Englishman has to admit. “Of course I would have liked to have been in Q3. I gave everything and the lap was strong, but then I made a mistake and just missed Q3,” he argues. “It’s like that sometimes, Lewis just about came in as tenth.”
Teammate Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, made the cut by four thousandths of a second. The seven-time world champion was even able to improve significantly in Q3 and finish fifth. “In Q2 I had a few problems,” he says. “I actually had more pace, but I couldn’t do my last lap.”
In Q3, on the other hand, he had a “really good lap”. Still, he was far from taking on rival Ferrari. Although Carlos Sainz was only 0.161 seconds short, Charles Leclerc was almost a second behind.
“The times are sometimes confusing,” says motorsport boss Toto Wolff to “Sky”. Hamilton’s lap was on par with Leclerc and Max Verstappen at the beginning and end, “but I have to admit that the Ferrari was outstanding in the middle sector”.
Hamilton’s best time there was 40.678 seconds, but Leclerc was half a second faster with 40.191. Wolff says that the car was actually in a good window, “but it’s just not stable enough for the drivers,” said the Austrian, who can live with fifth place in the end.
Hamilton criticizes the speed disadvantage
Hamilton himself says he didn’t know in advance what to expect from this weekend. “I knew that the Red Bulls would be particularly fast, but I didn’t know that we would be so far behind on the straights,” he sees a completely different construction site than his team boss.
“We’re slower on the straights and slower in the middle, so we still have a lot of work to do to fix that on the car,” he says. “It’s not the easiest car to drive. I’m happy to be on the third row and I think hopefully we can have a better fight tomorrow.”
However, this could be a difficult task, because changes to the car are not permitted due to parc ferme. “So that’s the pace we have,” says Hamilton. “But maybe I can get a little more out of it tomorrow if we can study some more data tonight.”
Russell: Don’t know what to change
Teammate Russell is a bit more skeptical. From his point of view, it’s not a bad thing that Mercedes can’t fundamentally do anything more about the car: “At the moment we don’t really know what we would have to change to get a little more pace on this track,” he quarrels, but describes it as ” Runaway”.
Even in practice, he didn’t feel particularly good in the car. On top of that, all drivers had little time to drive due to red flags. “I would have liked to have driven a few more laps,” he says, but doesn’t want to blame his retirement in Q2 on that.
“During the last sprint we were there immediately and flew like that in every session,” he recalls of the 2022 Brazilian weekend, where he ended up clinching his first and so far only Grand Prix victory. “Here it’s the opposite. But that’s how it goes sometimes.”
However, he tries to see it positively: “If you have a bad qualifying on a track, then preferably on this one”, he still sees chances for a good result. “I see no reason why we can’t hit back on Sunday.”