George Russell said the return to the old Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya layout for the final two corners has turned it “from probably one of the worst corners in Formula 1 to probably one of the best”, but the bumps make it “sketchy” for the drivers to navigate.
The change from the unloved chicane to finish the lap with two high-speed right-handers not seen in Formula 1 since 2006 has proven to be a popular choice overall among the drivers, but Russell found it difficult to get to grips with his Mercedes through the final Turn 14 during free practice on Friday.
He reported his car was bottoming out through the bumps in the corner, adding further jeopardy to a turn with apex speeds now beyond 150mph.
But after tweaks to his car in FP2, he was able to make life slightly easier for himself on the way to P8 in the session, less than half a second off Max Verstappen’s pace-setting time.
“I think we were just pushing the ride height of the car, to be honest,” Russell told reporters after his struggles in FP2.
“We solved it for the second half of the session just by lifting it a little bit. I mean, it’s really bumpy through that final corner, so it’s a little bit sketchy through there.
“Same for everyone, but we’ll see what we learn tonight. I think, definitely, we can find some gains.
“There were a few surprises out there today, but I’m sure the story will be slightly different tomorrow and again on Sunday, and as we know, we score points on Sunday. So that’s what we’re targeting.”
Regarding his own chances over the course of the weekend, Russell was not too optimistic about how he and Mercedes would match up compared to Red Bull – but then again, they appear in a league of their own once again in Barcelona.
He admitted his surprise at Nico Hulkenberg putting his Haas third fastest in FP2, and knows there will be several teams in the hunt to be in and around the chasing pack through the course of the weekend.
“Well, I don’t think there is a fight for pole with anyone on this grid, so that’s the way things are at the moment,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be tight. There are a few cars who are definitely fast on a Saturday.
“I think [the] Alpines are looking really strong. So between us, Ferrari and Alpine, it’s probably going to be tight.
“Nico [Hulkenberg] was really quick today. I don’t know where that came from, but we saw that in Miami, I think, Kevin [Magnussen] qualified ahead of us, but then things changed on Sunday.
“So I don’t expect us to be having an incredible day tomorrow, but I certainly expect us to be having a better Sunday than Saturday, so that’s what we’re gearing up for.”