George Russell said his first day with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team was ‘good’, but the Briton says there is still some work to be done to improve the performance of the W11.
Russell, competing this weekend at Mercedes instead of his regular ride with Williams Racing due to Lewis Hamilton’s positive test for coronavirus, could not have done better on Friday as he topped both practice sessions on the outer track of the Bahrain International Circuit.
However, Russell says the lap times are a little bit deceiving, while he also admits he was struggling when it came to his longer runs. However, he was encouraged by his pace throughout Friday on his first day with a front-running team.
“It was a good first day in the W11 but there’s definitely work to be done,” said Russell. “The new track layout is very different to the usual layout here and it’s not an easy track to say the least.
“It’s going to be very tight in qualifying and we can probably expect a dramatic race. It’s been good to be working with the team today and I’m learning a lot every single lap I’m in the car.
“I think my lap times are a bit deceiving at the moment and not the true representation of the pace. I struggled on the high fuel runs in FP2 and ultimately that’s going to be key on Sunday. The Red Bulls were quick on the long runs and Valtteri was quickest in FP2 but had his lap time deleted.
“It’s going to be close, so we’ll get our heads down tonight. There’s still a lot of work to do to get comfortable in the car and with the set-up. But it’s been an encouraging first day and I’m excited to be back in W11 tomorrow.”
“The new section of track is really technical and bumpy” – Valtteri Bottas
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas admitted it had been a tricky day in Bahrain for the Finn, with turn eight catching him out in both Friday sessions.
In the first session, he ran over the kerb and broke part of the floor of his W11, while track limits was his downfall in the second session, with his best lap time being deleted for putting all four wheels off the circuit. He ended fourth in the first session and only eleventh in the second as he failed to set a representative lap time on the soft tyre.
He was happier when it came to his long run pace, and he sees Russell and the two Aston Martin Red Bull Racing drivers as his main rivals for the rest of the weekend.
“It was a tricky day for me,” said Bottas. “I went over the kerbs in Turn 8 in my first run in FP1 and broke quite a large chunk off the floor, so the rest of the session was a bit of a waste afterwards.
“FP2 felt ok, but obviously I didn’t really get any laps in on the Soft tyre, as my only half decent lap was deleted because of track limits. So, not the best day, but the long runs were pretty consistent.
“Red Bull look really competitive on those long runs, particularly on the Medium tyre, and George was putting in good laps as well. There’s quite a bit of work to do on my side to get everything together for qualifying.”
Bottas says the technical nature of the middle part of the track is ‘challenging’, and he expects time lost in that part of the track, as well as in traffic, to be costly when it comes to Qualifying on Saturday evening.
“The new section of track is really technical and bumpy, so it’s quite challenging and really easy to lose a tenth,” he said. “On such a short track, in qualifying that could make all the difference.
“It’s going to be intense with so many cars on track, too, so it’s going to be really important to get clean laps in and prioritise the gaps.”