George Russell dampens expectations after outpacing Lewis Hamilton

George Russell set the fastest lap in the second practice session in Japan.

Mercedes’ George Russell was in an equivocal mood when he appeared before reporters after the German side topped the second practice session in Suzuka.

Both sessions were affected by rain, and Fernando Alonso went quickest in the opening hour ahead of Carlos Sainz.

Mick Schumacher crashed at the end of FP1, exemplifying how tricky the conditions were, while the lack of visibility left Nicholas Latifi a little confused when he turned in to the wrong part of the final chicane and ended up staring at a barrier.

FP2 was reverted to the previously customer 90 minutes, which seemed perhaps a little pointless given that the Pirelli tyre test, which was the object of the extension, could not go ahead due to the weather.

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The drivers used extreme Wets for the first part of the session, but quickly gained the confidence to switch onto the Inters when the rain eased off, pushing the lap times down to the 1:41s.

Russell put 22 laps on the board as he led home team-mate, Sir Lewis Hamilton, for a Mercedes one-two, nearly a second clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

That alone is suggestive of some teams sandbagging more than others, especially since both Mercedes drivers ended up outside the top 10 in FP1.

While it is a positive start to the weekend, there is not much for the eight-time champions to go off in terms of raw pace.

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“It’s probably not going to be that representative for this weekend but definitely good learning for the future,” said Russell.

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“There’s a chance on Sunday it could be wet but it looks pretty dry tomorrow. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to end the day top of the timesheets and definitely made some improvements from FP1 as we were at the bottom.”

Russell and Hamilton are both chasing their first win of the season, and they are also searching for a bounce back after a disappointing Singapore Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old finished down in 14th after a litany of issues throughout the weekend, while a crash in the race saw the seven-time champion finish ninth.