Despite showing pace on Friday, George Russell has all but ruled out Mercedes challenging for pole position at the Dutch Grand Prix.
Russell topped the timesheet in Friday’s first practice, leading a Mercedes 1-2 as a gearbox issue took Max Verstappen out of the running.
But even with the championship leader back in action in the second session, he wasn’t able to grab P1, that going to Charles Leclerc.
Hamilton was third fastest but only 0.072s while Russell was P5, three-tenths off the pace.
It was one of Mercedes’ best Fridays of this season but Russell doesn’t think it will result in a pole position come Saturday’s qualifying.
He shocked the paddock when he grabbed his maiden pole position earlier this season at the Hungarian Grand Prix, but that he says was very different.
“I think Hungary was a bit unique,” he said. “Our rivals didn’t quite get it right on the day and we did an absolutely stellar job and everything just sort of went towards us, and we obviously only just pipped them.
“I will be very shocked if we can have a repeat of Hungary, but I think we’re definitely closer than we have been in a long time so let’s see what Saturday brings.”
The Brit is hoping it will at least be better than Mercedes’ Belgian Grand Prix qualifying.
Last Saturday Hamilton and Russell were 1.8 and 2.1s off the pace respectively, the team baffled by Verstappen’s advantage.
Russell reckons Zandvoort will at least see the Mercedes pairing closer to the front, the 24-year-old acknowledging that they need a better showing on Saturdays as that has been the team’s weak point.
Getting some laps in the bank. 📐 pic.twitter.com/2OFGyZSjlX
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) September 2, 2022
“Better than Spa that’s for sure, compared to this time last week,” Russell said. “The car’s working better, there’s no doubt about it. It’s going to be close. McLaren are looking quick, even Aston Martin on a similar note.
“Qualifying is our weak point, I think the race will come towards us and I think our long-run pace is looking strong but you’ve got to be starting in the right position.
“If you’re starting on row three it’s going to be difficult to battle for first or second.
“It was a little bit tricky out there because the timing screen wasn’t working, so I don’t know if it was the same on television or not, so we couldn’t actually see where our long-run pace is really at.
“So I’m sure we’ll dive into it tonight and try to gather as much data as possible, but I think we’re in a relatively good spot.”
Russell will line up on the grid P5 in the Drivers’ standings where he is 21 points off the pace in the fight for second.