Being ill and living off three hours’ sleep each night has done George Russell no harm recently in the Mercedes intra-team battle with Lewis Hamilton, so joked his rivals are missing a trick.
The wheels have seemingly fallen off for Hamilton in his late F1 2023 resurgence, with the seven-time World Champion having now suffered back-to-back Q2 eliminations as he prepares to start from P11 at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Russell meanwhile has been on fine form over the Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi rounds, comfortably outqualifying Hamilton in both, while finishing one position behind in P8 come Las Vegas GP race day.
George Russell jokes illness key to success
Additional reporting by Thomas Maher
So, with Russell beginning to pick up form as a “messy” season for him reaches its conclusion, it came as a surprise to hear that he has not been feeling well at all over the last couple of weeks and has been managing only three hours of sleep each night.
Or, as Russell joked, has he actually found the price to pay for success?
“I’ve been really ill the last two weeks and I’ve been really really quick, so I don’t know if I need to be ill more often or what it is,” Russell told Sky F1 with a smile.
“But the last two weeks I’ve just felt super comfortable in the car, had about on average three hours of sleep per night, so maybe that’s the secret everybody’s missing!”
Nonetheless, it was far from an ideal qualifying for Russell, who after topping the final practice session, has to make do with P4 on the grid for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, having fallen three-tenths short of Max Verstappen’s pole-setting pace.
“I didn’t know what to expect to be honest,” Russell told media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher on his qualifying expectations, “after FP3, thought we could fight for pole and then we just didn’t make the jump that every other team seemed to make.
“Often the case when you’ve got a session in the day and then a session in the night, things change, you need to adapt to those.
“But I think P4 is a great place to start. Very close to P3, and that’s probably a fair representation of where we are.”
That being said, Russell will not overlook the need to analyse what went wrong from FP3 into qualifying.
The British racer said that a one-second gain is expected when the cars go into qualifying trim under the lights, so four-tenths went missing somewhere.
“Maybe we got ahead of ourselves after FP3 with a really strong session, but definitely something we need to look into,” Russell continued.
“Because FP3 we were quickest every single lap and on paper, when the track drops 10 degrees and you take out all of the fuel, you’re expected to maybe make a one-second jump, and we only made a six-tenth jump.”
Russell is the Mercedes driver who has looked the sharpest all race weekend, with Hamilton struggling in his efforts to play catch-up and suffering Q2 elimination, marking consecutive weekends where this has happened.
But, Russell has found himself several times this season as the one facing a significant pace deficit to the seven-time World Champion, Russell saying a lot of this comes down to confidence in a Mercedes W14 which is difficult to tame.
“I think confidence is a huge thing and if you start on the front foot, you can just build from there,” he said.
“I’m not too sure, there’s different theories week in week out, but for sure Lewis isn’t a driver who is four-tenths off the pace this weekend or whether it was last weekend.”
Mercedes are out to secure P2 in the Constructors’ Championship, their advantage over Ferrari just four points as this battle reaches its climax in Abu Dhabi.