George Russell has explained that he loves the pressure of a high-stakes qualifying session, as the newly-promoted Mercedes driver has garnered a reputation for being a one-lap specialist on a Saturday.
Russell has become well-known over the past three years for placing his truculent Williams higher on the grid than it perhaps had any right to be, gaining himself the nickname of "Mr. Saturday" from some.
It is no coincidence that the young British driver tends to do well in qualifying, as he has highlighted that he simply loves having the opportunity to go hell-for-leather over a single lap.
"It's the high-pressure stakes of qualifying; you go out there, you've got one lap to do the business, the pressure is on and the world's watching," Russell told Crash.net.
"It just excites me and I thrive on that pressure to go out there and deliver. I think for a lot of drivers, it's the most exciting part of the weekend. It's when your car is at its fastest and when everything is on the line.
"It's like a sprint, [with] the race being more of a marathon, managing it to the end. You can't sprint every lap of a race because you'd be burned out, you'd tire the engine and the brakes.
"But qualifying – you are not holding anything back, you are unleashing everything and that's what I enjoy."
"An F1 driver's natural speed doesn't really improve"
Russell went on to say that qualifying is the part of the weekend that rewards the naturally quickest drivers, and he believes a driver cannot learn how to unlock more natural pace during their career.
Instead, Russell reckons unlocking speed comes from knowledge and experience, rather than innate talent.
"I think, as a driver, your natural speed probably doesn't improve much from the age of 16, 17 to the rest of your career," he said.
"You become faster because you learn how to work with the team better, how to get more out of your car, from the technical aspects, [asking], 'How do I get my tyres working in a better window to make them go faster on track?'
"These are all things you obviously learn with experience and I think I've progressed a huge amount.
"I am definitely a faster driver today than I was three years ago. Not from my natural ability, but more from the things you learn technically along the way."
Russell compares qualifying to "being on a rollercoaster"
Russell might have opportunities to fight for his maiden F1 pole position in 2022, depending on how fast the new Mercedes W13 turns out to be.
Having achieved his first front-row start at the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, Russell added that the intense flurry of qualifying gives him the ultimate adrenaline rush.
"That feeling when you've managed to accomplish something special over one lap is pure elation and the adrenaline is absolutely pumping because it's all on the line for such a short period of time," he explained.
"It's sort of just being at one with the car. You need faith and confidence in the car. You need it to react as you want it to and you just feel like you are on this rollercoaster ride, going as fast as possible and everything else is blurred out.
"You are focused on one thing and that is corner after corner after corner and just going as fast as possible. It truly feels like you are just on this rollercoaster going for an incredible ride – the fastest ride of your life.
"Every single weekend it feels like this. When you do a great job, the adrenaline is there, so it's like you are in control of this marvellous rollercoaster ride."
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