Mercedes told Russell top six in qualifying would be “fine” · RaceFans

by Dec 5, 20200 comments

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Mercedes told George Russell a top-six result in qualifying would be satisfactory for his first weekend in the car.

Russell, who is substituting for Lewis Hamilton this weekend, put his car on the front row of the grid, lapping just two-hundredths of a second slower than team mate Valtteri Bottas.

Russell described how team principal Toto Wolff and chief strategist James Vowles reassured him over their expectations before qualifying.

“Everyone at Mercedes – Toto, James – said just go out, enjoy it, there’s zero expectations on you,” said Russell. “[They said] if Lewis were to jump in a Williams then it would be difficult, so we’re not expecting anything from you and if you qualify first two rows, top five, top six then fine, you can still get a podium from there.”

Wolff told Sky that Russell seemed more relaxed after their conversation: “I said to him if you end up in the first four, second row of the grid, that’s already a fantastic result. If a McLaren or Ferrari jumps you and you’re fifth, it’s equally great. Nothing more is expected. And I felt that he was walking off with a little more easiness.”

Hamilton is around 11 centimetres shorter than Russell, who has had difficulty fitting into the world champion’s smaller cockpit.

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“Comfort-wise, it’s still not perfect,” Russell admitted after his second day in the W11. “I’m very bruised and sore.

“It’s going to be quite a long, fatiguing race tomorrow if you’re not comfortable in the car. I had ice on my shoulders last night to reduce some swelling, and my knees and toes. But when the car’s so fast you forget about all the pain.”

Russell is still also adapting to the Mercedes’ controls, and revealed he accidentally put his car into neutral at one point.

“This car’s just completely different,” he said. “I’m learning all the new procedures, learning new buttons.

“First practice was a mess. I was pressing the wrong buttons, even in qualifying I pressed neutral at one point instead of something else. It’s difficult when you’re in such a routine – for me, down at Williams, you don’t even think about these things, it just naturally happens.

“We’ve tried to modify as many things as physically possible just to make things easier for me. It’s been a lot of work and it still takes a bit of time, it takes a couple of races just to understand that.”

“So, Toto, a few more races please and I’ll be there!” he added.

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