George Russell cited used tyres as the reason why he was so far off the pace in Q2 for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
But there was still plenty for the driver nicknamed ‘Mr Saturday’ to be pleased about as he took his record of reaching Q2 this season to 60% – nine times in 15 races.
Not only that, but the Williams man has now beaten his F1 team-mate in qualifying 36 times out of 36 as he outpaced Nicholas Latifi by almost nine tenths of a second in Q1.
Ultimately, Russell ended up in P14, benefiting from the brake problem that ended Carlos Sainz’s qualifying early in Q2 and made something of a mess of that session, which had to be red-flagged while the McLaren was recovered and meant drivers could fit in only one run as their first had to be terminated.
Russell’s time was almost 1.7sec down on the next slowest man, Lance Stroll, which was clearly not representative – and he subsequently explained why.
“Used tyres,” said the 22-year-old Briton. “Everyone’s asking me this! It was used tyres, we had no more new tyres available.
“We could have put a set of new mediums on but opted not to because we knew even if we did an amazing job, we probably still would have been behind everyone and we expect to need both of those mediums tomorrow. We wanted to keep two fresh sets.
“The goal was to get into Q2, we did that and obviously capitalising from the issue with Carlos was an extra, so I think we can be pleased with the performance.”
We snuck a few more laps in there again today! Great job guys, eyes on tomorrow 🤜🤛
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) November 28, 2020
It’s a credit to Russell’s qualifying exploits in 2020 that the session in the first of two back-to-back races at Sakhir – albeit next weekend’s will be on a different track configuration – was a typical result for him.
Next up will be to try and bag his first World Championship points, but that looks a tough task unless there is a surprisingly high attrition rate or some of his rivals take each other out.
“We were struggling this weekend, in all honesty, and we opted to use an extra set of tyres in FP3, so we had one fewer for qualifying,” added Russell.
“In some races recently we’ve felt like we could step ahead and go even further, but today just outqualifying the Haas and Alfa Romeo cars was the maximum and that’s what we did.”