Russell admits he “took a step backwards” after Friday practice · F1 · RaceFans

George Russell said he’s “taken a step backwards” from Friday practice after qualifying eighth for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver qualified three tenths of a second behind team mate Lewis Hamilton. The pair will share the fourth row of the grid, but were over a second away from pole position.

Russell comfortably led his team mate in both Friday practice sessions at Suzuka. Yesterday he appeared to be in the hunt for second place behind eventual pole winner Max Verstappen, lapping close to the times set by the McLaren drivers and Charles Leclerc.

However he admitted he didn’t get the best out of his car on Saturday. “There’s a sweet spot when it comes to circuits like this, which is very difficult to find and when you’re not there you can be quite far off the pace,” Russell explained.

“We saw yesterday I was more competitive, we were much closer yesterday to the rest of the pack than we were today.

“So we’ve definitely taken a step backwards my side of the garage. We were two tenths behind second fastest yesterday and now today we’re seven or eight.”

Russell said the team made some changes to the car’s set-up which may explain the lack of competitiveness.

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“I think when you’re off the pace like you are on a circuit like this, you’re trying to find everything possible,” added Russell.

“You try whatever you can as almost a silver bullet, but often in this sport there’s never any magic you can do with the set-up.

“As I said, we probably made the car a bit slower trying to find lap time that just wasn’t there.”

Both Mercedes were out-qualified by their Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren rivals. However Russell said they have expected for some time that Suzuka would be a difficult track for them.

“I think fourth row on the grid is a fair representation of where the pace of our car is this weekend,” said Russell.

“We knew after Silverstone that this was going to be a difficult circuit for us. The McLarens were taking two tenths out of us per corner in turn 13 and 15 in Silverstone which is exactly the speed range that we see through the majority of Suzuka.

“So, you have your strong tracks, you have your weak tracks and this is definitely a weak one for us.”

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2023 Japanese Grand Prix

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