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George Russell

Russell airs 'sneak' hope with grandstand view of Verstappen-Norris battle

George Russell is hoping he will be able to take advantage of another potential Max Verstappen/Lando Norris battle.

Russell Qualifying Austria
To news overview © XPBimages

George Russell is to sit back and watch Max Verstappen and Lando Norris go head-to-head in the Austrian Grand Prix and hopefully make a "sneak" move on what could be another potentially "dicey" battle.

Mercedes driver Russell will start third on the Red Bull Ring grid behind another Verstappen/Norris front row after the Red Bull and McLaren drivers matched their sprint qualifying line-up.

In the sprint, Norris showed good early pace and pulled off a superb move on Verstappen into Turn 3 to take the lead which proved short-lived as he left the door open for the three-time F1 champion into Turn 4, from which there was no looking back for the Dutch driver.

Norris' mistake was compounded by the fact team-mate Oscar Piastri also burrowed his way into second on the run out of Turn 6.

Russell is confident of his car's race pace, and he may have a chance of initially tussling with Verstappen and Norris.

Assessing his chances, he said: "These two were pretty dicey in the sprint race so I think I'll sit back and watch them do their thing, and hopefully just sneak through on the inside.

"Realistically they've got the pace on us. Our race is probably going to be behind us, unfortunately, and it's important we don't compromise our race too much battling with these guys. Let's see." 

Russell pipped Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to third by a mere 0.011s so recognises he may need to be looking more in his mirrors than ahead of him, particularly after his battle with the Spaniard in the sprint.

The Briton lost out to Sainz on the opening lap but managed to regain fourth a few laps later with the aid of DRS.

Russell is hopeful changes made on the car in between the sprint and qualifying will work in his favour in the race.

"The car is feeling really great," he said. "The team have worked so hard bringing these upgrades and it feels as though we've got a real fight on our hands, especially with Ferrari.

"I think we are still a little bit behind McLaren, and Max and Red Bull were flying, but it's definitely going in the right direction for us.

"We changed a few things. We changed the wing level, which helped a little bit. I think that will help the tyre deg for tomorrow.

"I'm happy to be in P3 because we compromised qualifying a little bit to help for the race tomorrow, but the fact is, McLaren still has that edge on us.

"But three races in a row for us that we've been in the top three [in qualifying] with Lewis [Hamilton] and I, and that feels really great."

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