George Russell says the way Mercedes has started the Dutch Grand Prix weekend puts it in a much stronger position than it has been in a long time.
At the first race back after the summer break in Belgium, Mercedes was well off the pace in practice and qualifying but it started the Zandvoort weekend with a one-two result in FP1 as Russell led Lewis Hamilton. The second session ended with Hamilton in third and within 0.1s of the leading two Ferraris, and Russell says the race pace was also encouraging.
“Better than Spa that’s for sure, compared to this time last week,” Russell said. “The car’s working better, there’s no doubt about it. It’s going to be close tomorrow. McLaren are looking quick, even Aston Martin on a similar note.
“Qualifying is our weak point, I think the race will come towards us and I think our long-run pace is looking strong but you’ve got to be starting in the right position. If you’re starting on row three it’s going to be difficult to battle for first or second.
“It was a little bit tricky out there because the timing screen wasn’t working… so we couldn’t actually see where our long-run pace is really at. So I’m sure we’ll dive into it tonight and try to gather as much data as possible, but I think we’re in a relatively good spot.”
Despite his optimism, Russell stopped short of saying Mercedes has a chance of scoring a second pole position of the season after he achieved his first at the Hungaroring.
“I think Hungary was a bit unique. Our rivals didn’t quite get it right on the day and we did an absolutely stellar job and everything just sort of went towards us, and we obviously only just pipped them. I will be very shocked if we can have a repeat of Hungary, but I think we’re definitely closer than we have been in a long time so let’s see what tomorrow brings.”
Teammate Hamilton was in a similarly positive mood after the way Mercedes started its weekend at Zandvoort, believing the team is close to maximizing the car’s potential already.
“This is a lot better than my Sunday and it’s a lot better than Friday even last week,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a decent start to the weekend. We’ve landed in a much sweeter spot with the car, just being that it’s a much different track.
“It’s a work in progress. We are not that far behind which is great to see and the car doesn’t feel that bad, so we’ve just got to keep chipping away. There’s probably not a huge amount more performance-wise but we’ve got to keep pushing.”