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George Russell, Mercedes F1 W15 Russell explains how low-fuel runs expose Mercedes F1 inconsistency.

TechnologyGeorge Russell, Mercedes F1 W15 Russell explains how low-fuel runs expose Mercedes F1 inconsistency.

George Russell believes Mercedes’ weakness in high-speed corners is exposed by the “nature of the calendar” at the start of the season.Russell was only ninth fastest in Q3, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton marginally better in seventh – albeit the latter was still 0.589 seconds slower than polesitter Max Verstappen.
The W15 has what team boss Toto Wolff calls a “fundamental issue” in the high-speed sections of a track, with the Saudi Arabian, Australian and Japanese Grands Prix all featuring the type of corners in which the car is struggling.

After an impressive practice, the team could only manage seventh and ninth in qualifying with Lewis Hamilton out-qualifying Russell for the first time this season. The latter was also investigated by the stewards for an unsafe release.

Reflecting on the result, Russell felt it was reflective of where Mercedes finds itself at the start of the season. Speaking to media, including RacingNews365, he said: “I think we did a great job in Q1 and Q2 and pulled the laps together.

“But ultimately the car wasn’t as competitive here as at other circuits and we knew that coming into the race weekend.

“We’ve had three circuits in a row now that have been high-speed circuits, and high-speed is our weakness. That is just the nature of the calendar.

“We saw we were much more competitive in Bahrain, so on the face of it, the result is not great.”

“The race will be a totally different story,” added Russell. “We just have to keep on working away and see how we perform at a circuit which suits us a little bit better.

“It is really tight, it is going to be a two-stop race at least, there is always high degradation at Suzuka, so that gives you options with the strategy but at the end of the day, it was so tight in qualifying, and I expect a similar story.

“Track position is going to be key.”

An eventual 0.811s deficit for Russell was partly the result of a final-sector mistake. Otherwise, he reckoned he would have been 0.4s better off to potentially qualify inside the top five.

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“We predicted before the session to be about 0.1s between ourselves, Ferrari, McLaren and Aston [Martin],” said Russell. “When it comes to that one lap in qualifying, if you nail it or you don’t quite nail it, that can be the difference these days of six positions.

“I was on a really strong lap, 0.25s up by Turn 11 and expecting to maybe finish 0.4s ahead.
“Made one small mistake and lost all the time. That was a bit of a shame.”

The Mercedes camp has rued the inconsistent behaviour of its W15 challenger, with strong early practice running often giving way to lacklustre performances over a flying lap.


Russell attributed this to the car’s high-speed deficiencies, an aspect exaggerated in qualifying when lighter fuel loads change the nature of corners that might otherwise suit the W15.

“We’re definitely doing more drastic test items at the moment to try and get on top of this high-speed performance. The car is correlating well in the low-speed and the medium speed.

“But we’re a long way off in the high speed compared to what we’re seeing back at base. So, we need to get on top of that.

“When you get to qualifying and the fuel comes out, the speeds are only going higher, higher and higher and that sort of runs away from us slightly.

“Whereas in the race, you’re probably going around the corners 30km/h slower in a high speed, which brings it back into more of a medium-speed corner rather than a high-speed corner.

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