George Russell says he was “gutted” to miss out on pole position at the Sakhir Grand Prix by just 0.026s, even if he is proud of his performance in qualifying.
Weekend teammate Valtteri Bottas set the pace early on in Q3 and was on provisional pole but failed to improve on his final run as he didn’t pick up a tow. That left the door open for both Russell and Max Verstappen, but both fell agonizingly short, with Russell 0.026s off Bottas in second and Verstappen just 0.03s further back in third place.
“It’s been incredibly intense – so much to learn getting used to the car, the seat, everything,” Russell said. “Just so different. It felt really alien to begin with. It’s just a really different way of driving to be honest – trying to unlearn what I learned at Williams and relearn how to drive this car fast.
“I tried a lot of things in FP3. And it didn’t go well at all so I’d have been happy just to get into Q3 after final practice. But really pleased we got it pretty much all together on the final lap. Obviously gutted to miss out on pole by 20 milliseconds, but if you told me last week I’d be qualifying P2 on the grid next week, I wouldn’t (have) believed you.”
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The final qualifying result was the fifth pole position for Bottas this season and 16th of his career. All 15 of the Finn’s previous poles have come alongside Lewis Hamilton in the same car, a fact not lost on Russell.
“Valtteri has pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the years. Statistically there’s only been a tenth between them and we all know how great Lewis is.”
The only advice Russell has had from Hamilton is to look after his car.
“Just to be right behind Valtteri, coming in last minute with two days of prep, I’m pleased, I’m pleased,” Russell exclaimed. So let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
While he is starting on the front row and as quick as he was in qualifying, Russell insists his target is not specifically a race win on Sunday.
“Obviously it would be amazing to stand on the podium. Ultimately, though, as a racer, you just want to deliver the best performance possible, and in all honesty, some of the performances that we achieved in the Williams–a P14 in qualifying; the buzz and the thrill to achieve that was incredible.
“Tomorrow I’m going to leave satisfied or disappointed, depending on how I felt I did. Whether that’s a win, whether that’s a P3, a P5 or whatever, there are no expectations. (I’m) going into with an open mind and hoping for the best.”