Albon says Russell has done an “amazing job” on first weekend in top team · RaceFans

by Dec 6, 20200 comments

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Alexander Albon praised George Russell’s performance after he qualified second for today’s Sakhir Grand Prix in his first weekend with Mercedes.

Russell has joined Mercedes from Williams at short notice as a substitute for Lewis Hamilton this weekend. Last year Albon had a similar experience when he joined Red Bull team at mid-season in place of Pierre Gasly.

Albon said how easily drivers can adapt to new cars at short notice is “very team dependent” and strongly influenced by how well-balanced a car is.

“I’m sure that the Williams car isn’t very easy to drive,” said Albon. “So coming into the Mercedes, I’m sure it felt very nice and it looks like he’s got on well with it.

“I think, truthfully speaking, that it looks pretty nice to drive. I mean, even when [Nikita] Mazepin does his testing in it, he seems to… at least, they get the driver feeling pretty good with it.

“George has done an amazing job, actually, because firstly he’s speaking to a team that isn’t his and he hasn’t really developed a relationship with the engineers, which is always very important. And he looks quick, he was really quick in sector three.”

Albon expects Russell will be competitive in today’s race. “It bodes well for him. I think he’s going to be quick. I don’t know how his race pace was on Friday, but he’ll be quick, so I’m sure it’ll be different for him starting on the front row, going into turn one.”

Although practice went well for Albon, he failed to reach Q3 in qualifying, and will start 12th, nine places behind team mate Max Verstappen.

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“I’ve had better ones,” Albon admitted. “It’s just frustrating because it was looking good on Friday and truthfully, even Saturday in the beginning was okay.”

George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020
Russell will start today’s race from second on the grid

He realised from the start of qualifying that the balance of his car had changed for the worse. “It was just one of those things where you drive your first lap in qualifying and it’s like ‘oh, okay, this is very different to what we’ve been getting the whole weekend.’ So I’m going to speak with the engineers, figure out where it is and that’s it.”

He and Verstappen complained about understeer during practice sessions, but Albon felt his car had improved before qualifying. “I’d say mostly we had a balance in final practice.

“We just did some balance changes to fix the car going into qualifying. But I think lacking some soft tyre running in final practice could’ve hurt us because we got what we were intending to but with the soft tyre you gain a lot of front grip at the apex.

“It was just tricky to balance because we were missing some front in some places, and having too much front in other places on the soft tyre. So it wasn’t as simple as just fine tuning it with flaps or front wing or something, which is normally the case. So that was it really. It felt like I was pretty happy with my Q2 run one lap.”

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