George Russell believes Mercedes was warned about their deficit after suffering their largest lap time deficit to Red Bull this season in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying.
The Mercedes driver starts alongside teammate Lewis Hamilton in eighth and seventh respectively, after the pair was over a second slower than Max Verstappen's pole lap.
Hamilton identified the weakness in high-speed as a trend he is worried in terms of catching Red Bull in 2024 about after both drivers struggled through Sector 1 and the famous Esses at Suzuka, with Russell believing the team had prior warning at Silverstone earlier in the year.
At their home race, Russell was sixth and Hamilton seventh on the grid, which was translated into a podium for the latter, but Russell felt an all-Mercedes fourth row was about par given the deficit to Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari across the Japan weekend.
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Russell: We've taken a step backwards
"Fourth row on the grid is a fair representation of where the pace of our car is this weekend, Russell told media including RacingNews365.
"We knew after Silverstone that this was going to be [a] difficult [race].
"McLaren had taken two-tenths out of us at Club Corner and Turns 13 to 15 (Becketts to Stowe) at Silverstone, which is exactly the speed rate that we see for the majority of Suzuka."
"There's a sweet spot when it comes to circuits which is very difficult to find when you're far off the pace.
"We were much closer in practice to the rest of the pack compared to qualifying, so definitely taken a step backwards myself.
"We were two-tenths off the second fastest car and now we're seven or eight, so it's difficult."