George Russell reckons Max Verstappen will storm through the Formula 1 field "pretty comfortably" to win the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
Russell starts fifth for the 44-lap race, with Verstappen down in 14th following a spate of engine grid penalties for multiple drivers.
Red Bull driver Verstappen actually won qualifying with a blistering 1:43.655s lap, over six-tenths quicker than his nearest challenger, but drops down as he exceeded his allocation of engine components.
The World Champion has been the dominant driver of the weekend thus far, with Russell believing the #1 car will "slice through" the pack.
Verstappen still seen as the favourite for victory at Spa
Russell is due to line up behind teammate Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes qualified seventh and eighth fastest, with the two Brits shuffled up due to penalties for Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon.
Mercedes have struggled with tyre warm-up all weekend in cool, overcast conditions in the Ardennes Forest, with Russell predicting a rather boring race for the Silver Arrows.
"I think Max is going to slice through and win the race probably pretty comfortably," he told media including RacingNews365.com.
"He and Red Bull are miles ahead of everyone, [but] I don't really know about Charles to be honest.
"But [I've] got to focus on myself and I expect we should be able to be ahead of [third-place starting] Fernando [Alonso], and we'll probably end up in in no man's land behind the front four and ahead of everyone else."
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Mercedes have "inherent car limitation"
Hamilton's best time in qualifying was nearly 1.8s slower than the Verstappen Q3 benchmark as Mercedes continued to struggle firing their tyres up – a weakness of the package all year.
"I think it's inherent car limitations that we have," observed Russell.
"I'd say over the course of a season, we benefit a lot more on the Sunday than the limitation we have on a Saturday, and we've probably only had three out of these 14 races that have been really bad qualifiers.
"Here and Imola spring to mind and maybe Monaco as well – all tracks where you struggle with tyre temps.
"So there's a clear theme we want to try and find a solution [to], but we don't have the answer at the moment.
"[On Saturday], it's 15 degrees, and the track was 20 degrees, whereas in the past, it was 25 degrees and the track was 40-50 degrees. So the tyres just operate in a totally different window.
"As I said, even when it is hot, we still do struggle, generally on Saturday, and we would close the gap on a Sunday."
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