After the highs of the Brazilian Grand Prix last weekend, it was somewhat back to normal service for Mercedes in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with the Silver Arrows locking out the third row.
On the back of claiming his maiden Formula 1 victory at Interlagos last weekend, George Russell will start from sixth on Sunday at the season finale, after a disappointing qualifying.
Despite appearing to be the second strongest team in Free Practice, the Germans struggled in qualifying.
It appears second in the Constructors’ Championship is well and truly out of reach for the Brackley-based team, considering that both Lewis Hamilton and Russell are behind both Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s.
Red Bull have been in a league of their own at the Yas Marina Circuit and locked out the front row, with Charles Leclerc taking third with Carlos Sainz in fourth.
Hamilton had to settle for fifth, but at least qualified ahead of Russell once again, by a marginal three-thousandths of a second.
Both Mercedes’ were almost seven-tenths behind pole sitter Max Verstappen and two-tenths behind both Ferrari’s, highlighting that there is work to be done on Sunday.
Given where the Silver Arrows are starting from on Sunday, it is extremely unlikely that Russell will claim second in the Drivers’ Championship, something he can incredibly do under the rarest of circumstances.
If Russell wins and claims the fastest lap, then he will end the year in second if Leclerc and Pérez both fail to score a point.
Over recent rounds it had appeared that the Germans had overcome their qualifying issues; however, it does seem that the recent circuits have simply played into the strengths of the W13.
With Red Bull looking as strong as they are this weekend, a one-two on a Sunday is a realistic outcome of the race for the Austrians, with it set to be a four-way duel perhaps for the final place on the rostrum.
Mercedes’ race pace has looked slightly stronger than Ferrari’s, who until qualifying have lacked pace all weekend.
The Italians’ qualifying pace was certainly a shock, as was Pérez’s slow pace at times throughout qualifying.
The Mexican appeared to get in multiple drivers’ way as they were ending a hot lap, with Russell and Sebastian Vettel having complained about the 32-year-old.
Russell labelled Pérez’s slow pace as “dangerous”, after he was impeded by the Red Bull driver in Q1.
“Don’t know what that Red Bull was doing, but it was **** dangerous going so slow,” Russell said on the team radio after Q1.