George Russell says he’s unhappy with Mercedes decision

George Russell has been on the backfoot relative to Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton at the 2023 Belgian GP.

In a rain-affected qualifying session at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgium Grand Prix, Mercedes adopted divergent approaches for their drivers, resulting in Lewis Hamilton securing P3 on the grid and George Russell ending up in P8. 

The lack of meaningful data from the rain-hit practice session left the team with a tough decision, but they opted for a low-downforce configuration for Hamilton and a high downforce setting for Russell.

“We have run two very different rear wings and configurations, and you can see that Lewis is just able to extract more performance from that,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff explained.

Hamilton expressed satisfaction with the outcome, saying, “I’m happy with today’s result. 

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“It was a hectic session as it was consistently drying up. 

“It was very slippery at the beginning and visibility was a challenge. 

“With FP1 being wet, getting the setup ready for qualifying today when eventually it went dry was just like a big guessing game.”

However, he acknowledged there was room for improvement, particularly in the middle sector where he felt they were losing significant time. 

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“I’ve got to go and study to try and figure out where that is and if there’s any way with the package that I have, whether I can close that,” Hamilton added, aware of the challenge posed by Max Verstappen.

Russell, on the other hand, found the high downforce approach to be less effective, admitting, “To be honest, we struggled in that session, and don’t really know why. 

“We have just been off the pace. 

“I usually love those transitional sessions but every lap we were nowhere. 

“Definitely we would have liked to have been higher up the order.”

Mercedes’ Trackside Engineering Director, Andrew Shovlin, pledged to analyse the data to find areas for improvement, remarking, “George struggled a bit for pace as the track moved to dry. 

We’ll have a look through the data and see what there is to learn ahead of the sprint qualifying tomorrow; hopefully we’ll find a bit of speed.”

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Despite the contrasting results, both drivers encountered a tense moment during Q1 when they were summoned to the stewards’ office. 

Hamilton ran off-track through Eau Rouge-Raidillon and rejoined ahead of Russell during out-laps, forcing Russell to take evasive action.

However, the stewards ultimately understood their situation, considering their attempt to avoid impeding Valtteri Bottas in his hot lap behind them, and decided not to take any further action.