George Russell thinks Mercedes has a “cheap likelihood” of successful the Mexico Grand Prix.
It may not seem to be essentially the most overwhelming stage of confidence, however within the context of a season that Max Verstappen and Crimson Bull have taken virtually whole management of, it actually means one thing.
It has been a tricky yr for Mercedes, and with simply three races to go they nonetheless must win a race. It appears to be their greatest likelihood but – only a week after Hamilton closed as he did once more at america Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.
Russell and Lewis Hamilton begin second and third, behind the world champion, for a race that has not been gained from pole place since 2016, when Hamilton did.
Verstappen will all the time be a formidable opponent, beginning all the time as a favorite. If he wins on Sunday, will probably be his 14th victory of the season – a brand new all-time excessive.
However Mercedes regarded aggressive all weekend at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and Russell felt the 0.304 second hole by which Verstappen beat him on pole – lots on one of many shortest laps of the season – flattered the Crimson Bull.
“It was a really powerful session,” Russell mentioned. “The automobile felt nice all weekend, then my first lap in Q1 was simply terrible. I used to be driving terribly and simply had no rhythm.
At the beginning of the ultimate session – Q3 – Russell appeared to have discovered his rhythm. He was 0.143 seconds behind Verstappen on their opening laps and felt he might do considerably higher.
“The lap in Q3 was not a banker, it was an excellent lap, a clear lap and I knew there was much more to come back,” Russell mentioned. “And after I began pushing extra, I used to be bitten by the automobile.”
That was the issue with the Mercedes automobile that Hamilton described within the interview he did with BBC Sport and three different choose shops in Austin final weekend, which was revealed on Thursday.
“Take the automobile to the restrict,” Hamilton said, “It is like crawling behind a horse – you attempt to get as shut as potential. What is the breaking level earlier than he hits you within the face? And you understand it should harm when he hits you within the face. “
Russell mentioned after qualifying: “I am dissatisfied as a result of I felt the staff deserved pole place, however finally the factors are for Sunday and we’re going for the win.
“It is a disgrace however we’re beginning P2, the second very best quality of the yr, and there are lots of positives to remove.
“We predict we now have an affordable shot, and having Lewis up entrance additionally provides us the chance to do one thing totally different on technique.”
Hamilton additionally felt he was in on the motion with what would have been his first pole of the yr.
The quickest in qualifying 1 and a couple of, Hamilton had motive to be assured heading into the ultimate session.
However he was judged for reducing the third nook on his first lap, and his time was disallowed. That meant he needed to be slightly cautious in his last race as a result of messing all of it up would have meant beginning tenth. On prime of that, he suffered from engine points that slowed him down in corners.
“No actual main points,” Hamilton mentioned. “Some engine points; some efficiency stays on the desk with that, sadly.
“Dropping the primary spherical made it a bit harder as a result of I needed to maintain clear, so not capable of assault as laborious as I might have preferred.
“(The engine drawback) began displaying up in Q2 after which each race in Q3.
“Principally I used to be shedding energy popping out of the corners, so I actually suppose we had been shedding fairly a little bit of time. It regarded like an ignition subject, however I will discover out with the staff.”
Mercedes mentioned the issue was a wobble within the transmission.
Total, nonetheless, Hamilton was comfortable.
“Second and third should not a nasty place to start out,” he mentioned.
Why is Mercedes so aggressive?
Russell felt that Mercedes’ competitiveness was a consequence of the altitude. Mexico Metropolis is over 2,200m above sea stage, so the air is skinny, which has a big impact on F1 automobiles.
Though the monitor has lengthy straights, groups run their automobiles within the highest potential downforce configuration as a result of the low air density reduces their aerodynamic effectivity.
It additionally reduces drag – and that is key for Mercedes, for whom one of many greatest points this yr has been the dragging nature of their automobile.
Russell mentioned: “Crimson Bull have a really environment friendly automobile and took us an enormous period of time on the straights. This weekend it was much less and that is in all probability why we had the quickest automobile this weekend. finish.”
Why is pole not such an excellent factor?
This race was gained from third on the grid final yr, fourth in 2019 and second in 2018 and 2017.
Why is it so laborious to win from pole in Mexico, and why is qualifying second and third virtually thought of a bonus?
A part of the reason is that the race to the primary nook from the grid is over 800m, one of many longest of the yr, giving the drivers behind an excellent alternative to achieve floor through the use of the trailer.
That is how Verstappen managed to take the lead firstly final yr, regardless of Mercedes being locked out of the entrance row – though a part of that was Valtteri Bottas, Russell’s predecessor within the staff, not not doing his job correctly and failing to dam Crimson Bull.
The issue for Russell and Hamilton, nonetheless, is that the Crimson Bull stays a quicker automobile, and it is nonetheless prodigiously fast on the straights. Mercedes might need much less of a drag drawback than typical, however overtaking Crimson Bull will nonetheless be an issue.
Hamilton mentioned: “It is all the time a tricky race right here with monitor temperatures and tire temperatures however these guys have been quick all yr and even once we’re at our greatest we all the time lose velocity in straight line.
“Will probably be tough to overhaul them however we’ll do our greatest and Flip One is a chance.”
Verstappen, who has gained three of the final 4 races in Mexico, mentioned: “I’ve began in every single place however pole right here and we have gained races, so it is all the time essential to get an excellent begin.
“Our prime velocity is not too dangerous to defend when persons are within the draft. We simply must focus. If we now have good race tempo, it should be an excellent struggle, both manner.”