George Russell accidentally exposed Mercedes’ secret ahead of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The Brit will start fifth on the grid at the Baku City Circuit, and teammate Lewis Hamilton will begin in P7.
The 24-year-old assisted his teammate with a handy slipstream during today’s qualifying session, and once the session had concluded he elaborated on how it unfolded. “I aborted my lap so it happened that I was ahead of him and he took the benefit on that lap,” Russell said. “By the time you come to Q3 [you can plan a tow] but everybody’s being a bit strategic.
“Especially on a circuit like this, I don’t know. It’s so tricky because you only get the benefit down the big long straight at the end of the lap so you have to try and plan it and time it right. It’s not straightforward. At the start of the year we flip a coin and whoever wins gets a choice of who gets first or second in the first race and then we just alternate it.”
Quizzed over whether he was telling the truth, Russell added: “That’s true yeah. We get a choice each race, this weekend was my choice and I went second. You’ve learn something new today! Maybe I’m giving away all our secrets… I don’t think we had a coin to be honest, we flipped a bottle or did something even worse than that.”
After qualifying, Russell played down the Silver Arrows’ hopes of challenging Ferrari and Red Bull in Baku. He suggested the ‘slowest car on the grid’ was closer to Mercedes than they were to the constructors battling at the top of the standings. He told Sky Sports: “We’re not going to get anything more on merit. The slowest car on the grid is closer to us than we are to Ferrari and Red Bull, to put it in perspective.
So other than a late safety car and we’re strategically on the right tyres at the right time, or there are issues ahead, being P5 would be the maximum. There’s a lot of drivers and teams who are really fast this weekend, and that midfield looks extremely tight between the McLarens, Fernando [Alonso], [Pierre] Gasly… He’s got history around this track and seems very quick here. So I don’t know.
“We want more, [and] we’re fighting for more. We’re not just going to settle for P5 and P6 or P7. But you can’t just give away the points doing something stupid.” His teammate Hamilton was cleared of wrongdoing and will not be punished by the FIA despite having been summoned to the stewards at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix for allegedly driving unnecessarily slowly during qualifying in Baku.
The seven-time champion was involved in an incident with Lando Norris at the end of Q2 which angered the McLaren pitwall with the Briton appearing to drive slowly at Turn 15. But both Hamilton and Norris have now been cleared of breaching the regulations and no further action will be taken.
Norris qualified 11th and will remain in that position, while Hamilton keeps his P8 starting palce for tomorrow’s race. Charles Leclerc produced a sessmtional final lap to take pole position, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez due to start to start second, with their teammates Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz third and fourth respectively.