George Russell described his Mercedes W13 as a “different beast” in Miami Grand Prix qualifying compared to Friday practice as his car’s performance fell away.
Despite Mercedes’ self-confessed struggles, the Briton is the only driver to have finished in the top five of all four races so far this season and looked a potential pole position contender when he topped the timesheet in FP2.
But hopes of Mercedes making a big step forward in the inaugural race at the Miami International Autodrome to compete with Ferrari and Red Bull evaporated as Russell could not even make it through to Q3.
He was left with only one shot in Q2, saw other drivers leapfrog him in the standings and will start the race a disappointing 12th on the grid, six places behind his team-mate Lewis Hamilton as Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz gave Ferrari a front-row lockout.
It's P6 for LH in Miami. 🌴👊 And a solid starting position for what could be a crazy first #MiamiGP!
George will line up P12 after a trickier Saturday, but we've seen him have some strong Sundays already this season. 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/GL9mxIFCuv
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) May 7, 2022
“It’s definitely a surprise, but after driving the car and experiencing how it felt it’s no surprise,” Russell told The Race.
“Today it felt like a totally different beast. We had loads of ‘porpoising’ today. We don’t understand why, and ultimately that was the difficulty.
“It was the first time I’ve ever felt it all the way through a corner. Through Turn 4 and Turn 5 it was just bouncing through it all, and then into all of the braking zones.
“It’s a shame because I was slower today than I was yesterday and everyone else has gone a second quicker.
“It’s just like the rear of the car is hopping around and you just don’t have any support or stability in the rear.
“Yesterday we were flying through sector one and had so much confidence in the car. It was a totally different beast today.”
Russell added to Sky F1: “We are a bit confused, to be honest. It’s a real shame because I think there was potential in there and we saw yesterday we were really quick, and it’s just massively gone away from us today and don’t really know why.
“It’s not really making a lot of sense at the moment. When we get in the window it’s fast, but just a bit disappointed with myself and for the team.
“Yesterday we were looking like we were in the fight for pole, then today we qualified P12 which is the worst qualifying of the year.
“It doesn’t really make a lot of sense and it’s sort of flip-flopping massively, the performance.”
Mercedes hoping for a better weekend in Miami
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said the team has "several directions" for W13 improvements.