George Russell says Mercedes doesn’t understand why it is quickest in Friday practice at the Miami Grand Prix, but still had its most productive day of practice so far this season.
Russell was second in FP1 and then topped FP2 at a race where Mercedes has brought upgrades to its front wing endplates, rear wing and beam wing. He is the only driver to dip below the 1m30s mark.
“We don’t really understand…why we sort of hit the ground running,” Russell said. “We always knew ahead of this weekend that the conditions should suit us better because we have been struggling a lot with tire warm-up, even in Bahrain where the track was really rough, but this is the first real hot race of the season so that’s played a big factor. The car is working well, but it’s only Friday; not getting too carried away.
“What I’d say is practice means nothing and we go again tomorrow.”
Team principal Toto Wolff said the new parts were designed to give Mercedes an understanding of whether the direction it is heading in with its car development is the right one, but Russell says he hasn’t been part of the debriefs that might provide those answers.
“When I got out of FP1 I was straight into the stewards’ office because of the pit lane incident with [Esteban] Ocon and then straight into FP2 I was just working with my engineers to maximize the set-up and leaving it to the boffins to work out if this was the direction to go. It’s definitely been a really productive day for us and probably the most productive Friday we’ve had.”
While he remains cautious and believes the gains could be track-specific, Russell says there are signs Mercedes is now able to run its car a little lower, before the porpoising issues get too bad, compared to what they could previously.
“I think we know that it will always be there, but maybe it’s working at a lower [ride-height] range compared to where we were previously. But on that high-fuel run, I was feeling it and it didn’t seem to be any better. If we can manage to do that with the car lower to the ground then obviously we see the rewards.
“As I said, you generally have races that go in your favor; some races that go against you. I think Imola obviously wasn’t a strong circuit for us but so far, from what we see, the car is working well around Miami.”
Team-mate Lewis Hamilton was fourth quickest in FP2 – a little under a quarter of a second slower than Russell — and says he still has work to do, but there are hints at Mercedes’ progress from Friday’s running.
“There are definitely positive elements to take from today,” Hamilton said. “I’m still struggling with the car. George looked great out there, but we’re trying a lot of different things. We’ll converge and hopefully improve.
“I think we seem to be quicker here and later on they were explaining to us [that] we definitely have improved in some way. I’m not sure where that is. We still have the bouncing — we haven’t cured it — but bit by bit we’re improving the car.”