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George Russell

Mercedes weakness exposed by 'nature of calendar' - Russell

George Russell qualified only ninth at Suzuka on a track not tipped to suit Mercedes.

Russell Qualifying Japan
To news overview © XPBimages

George Russell believes Mercedes' weakness in high-speed corners is exposed by the "nature of the calendar" at the start of the season.

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."

Opportunity knocks?

Mercedes has struggled in qualifying in the ground-effect era but has often shown greater race pace. Russell believes the 53-lap event may again offer opportunities with strategy options available.

"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."

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RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying