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The one positive for Mercedes after their double Q2 exit at Imola

Mercedes will enter Saturday's Sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix with both cars outside the top 10 following a particularly tough qualifying session.

Russell Rain Imola
To news overview © Mercedes

George Russell has taken a glimmer of hope from the fact that the Sprint format will offer Mercedes an extra opportunity to make up ground at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Russell and teammate Lewis Hamilton were knocked out of the second qualifying phase at Imola, marking the first time since 2012 that a Mercedes has failed to reach Q3.

Having progressed from Q1 with their final laps, Russell and Hamilton went on to post early efforts in Q2, only for red flags and increasing rain to prevent any potential improvements.

Russell pins his hopes on F1's Sprint format

After Hamilton asserted that Mercedes "underperformed as a team" during qualifying, Russell offered his thoughts on their challenging session.

"We've always struggled a little bit to get the temperature in the tyre and we're always seemingly taking a bigger jump on the second lap," said Russell, who will start the Sprint in 11th, two places ahead of Hamilton.

"We saw it in Australia as well. When we compared to the Alpines and the McLarens, they were a first-lap qualifier, and we had to do it on the third lap or even the fifth lap.

"It was a bit of a shame with how the red flags panned out today, but if there is a weekend to not be where we want to be, the Sprint weekend is the one to do it.

"It's not ideal, but we've got a chance to recover those positions for tomorrow."

Stronger race pace, but still a big challenge ahead

Nonetheless, Russell is not expecting a straightforward charge through the field, given the W13's well-documented issues.

First up is Saturday's 21-lap Sprint, which will set the grid for Sunday's 63-lap Grand Prix.

Asked about his earlier suggestion that Mercedes should be slightly more competitive in race trim, and whether that gives him hope, Russell said: "I think so, but it's going to be a bit tricky going into the race tomorrow.

"Usually, in these Sprint races, not so much happens. It'll be interesting with these new cars if we can follow a bit closer.

"But I don't think there are enough laps, with enough [tyre] degradation, for us to take our advantage where we're generally stronger compared to our current rivals, which this weekend aren't the top two teams.

"Let's see what we can do. We've got Sunday as well, and we can only go up."

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