Russell reveals why Hamilton had to give him a tow in Baku

George Russell qualified fifth at Baku, two positions ahead of Mercedes team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton.

A huge part of setting a good lap at the Baku Street Circuit is the slipstream; if a driver has one on the main straight, they can gain around half a second in lap time.

George Russell qualified fifth in Baku ahead of team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton after he took advantage of a tow from the seven-time champion, who started race in seventh behind Pierre Gasly.

It was a relief for the Silver Arrows having looked inconsistent throughout practice, but frustration still arrives in the fact that they are over a second off the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull, who locked out the front two rows for the sixth time this season.

The 24-year-old described his session as “mixed,” and maintained that everyone in Brackley and Brixworth is working hard to get the Silver Arrows back to race winning ways.

“The lap felt good, the car felt good but obviously it’s pretty shocking when you cross the line to see you’re one-and-a-bit seconds behind pole position,” he told Sky Sports.

“We expect so much from ourselves and we’re working so hard to get performance but definitely this weekend has brought out the strengths and the weaknesses from all of us.”

READ: ‘You just follow the team’s orders’: Max Verstappen defends Red Bull after father’s criticism

Hamilton got into Q3 after receiving a tow of his own from Russell at the end of the second phase of qualifying, but he divulged that this was not deliberate; his own run just had not gone as planned.

“I aborted my lap so it happened that I was just ahead of him so he took the benefit on that lap,” added Russell.

Article continues below

The 24-year-old also stated that, due to the traffic in Q1 and Q2, it is only really in the final part of qualifying that teams can deliberately send one of their drivers out with the purpose of giving a tow to their team-mate.

READ: Ricciardo reveals ‘clarity’ with McLaren on what he must do to avoid being fired

“By the time you get to Q3 you can, but everybody’s being a bit strategic and especially on a track like this it’s so tricky because you only get the benefits down that big, long straight and the end of the lap,” he explained.

“So you’ve to try and plan it and time it right but it’s not straightforward.”

As for deciding who gets the advantage on the straight, it is a fairly simply solution over at Mercedes.

“At the start of the year we flip a coin and whoever wins gets the choice of who goes first or second at the first race and then we just alternate it,” said Russell, insisting that he was not joking.

“We get the choice, each race you get the choice and this week it was my choice and I went second.

“I don’t think we even had a coin to be honest, I think we flipped a bottle or did something even worse than that!”

Russell’s performance on Saturday earned him his second top five start of the year after qualifying P4 in Spain a few weeks ago.