Mercedes driver George Russell has shared his perspective on a challenging qualifying session at the Japanese Grand Prix, where he secured the eighth position on the grid, trailing his teammate Lewis Hamilton by three tenths of a second.
While Russell had showcased promising form during Friday’s practice sessions at Suzuka, he found himself over a second adrift from pole-sitter Max Verstappen in Saturday’s qualifying.
During the Friday practice sessions, Russell had consistently outperformed his teammate, providing a glimpse of strong potential.
However, his qualifying performance left room for reflection.
Russell candidly admitted that he had struggled to extract the maximum performance from his car on Saturday, emphasising the difficulty of finding the ideal balance on certain circuits.
Russell remarked, “There’s a sweet spot when it comes to circuits like this, which is very difficult to find, and when you’re not there, you can be quite far off the pace.”
He acknowledged that his competitiveness had waned compared to Friday’s showing, where he had been in close contention with McLaren drivers and Charles Leclerc.
Explaining the potential reasons behind the drop in performance, Russell pointed to adjustments made to the car’s setup.
“I think when you’re off the pace like you are on a circuit like this, you’re trying to find everything possible,” he added.
“You try whatever you can as almost a silver bullet, but often in this sport, there’s never any magic you can do with the setup.
“As I said, we probably made the car a bit slower trying to find lap time that just wasn’t there.”
In a challenging qualifying session, both Mercedes cars found themselves outpaced by their Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren rivals.
Russell, however, noted that the team had anticipated Suzuka to be a demanding track for their car’s performance.
Russell elaborated, “I think fourth row on the grid is a fair representation of where the pace of our car is this weekend.
“We knew after Silverstone that this was going to be a difficult circuit for us.
“The McLarens were taking two tenths out of us per corner in turn 13 and 15 in Silverstone, which is exactly the speed range that we see through the majority of Suzuka.
“So, you have your strong tracks, you have your weak tracks, and this is definitely a weak one for us.”