Russell excited by Mercedes tyre advantage in Singapore


George Russell will start Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix from the front row, and he reckons that Mercedes' tyre strategy this weekend could give them a crucial upper hand over their rivals on the grid.

Russell had been on the march throughout the three practice sessions, starting off in sixth place in FP1, improving to third in FP2, and then concluding final practice second quickest behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.

After a confusing finish to the first round of qualifying following a red flag for Lance Stroll's big accident, Russell soon picked up where he had left off and was second to Sainz again in Q2.

With Red Bull out of the picture following their shock elimination at the end of the second round, Russell was one of the leading contenders for pole in the final top ten shoot-out, but it looked set to be a Ferrari 1-2 instead.

Russell left it late to make his final flying run in order to get the track at its quickest. If not for a slight snatch of oversteer at the final corner, he might have taken outright pole - but had to settle for P2 instead.

Even so, Russell was delighted by the outcome of qualifying and said that he was "really happy with this weekend as a whole", adding that he was feeling "really confident in the car".

One of the biggest challenges today had been staying cool, calm and collected in the sweltering conditions, especially in the half hour delay following Stroll's accident while track repairs were carried out.

(L to R): Second placed George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 with third placed Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari in qualifying parc ferme. 16.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Qualifying Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

"When you're sat in that car it's like you're sat in the sauna, just sweating it out," Russell admitted. "But you have got to keep your composure, stay cool," he said, acknowledging that it has been "a challenging session".

And he revealed the reason why he felt that despite missing out on pole, he felt that Mercedes now had the upper hand on Ferrari for tomorrow's race after the team had been able to save a set of tyres compared to their rivals.

"The team did a great job with the strategy," he explained. "We're on an offset strategy compared to everybody else. We've got an extra set of medium tyres tomorrow, which nobody around us has."

Given that Ferrari has typically struggled with tyre degradation in this year's races, Russell thinks that this could prove pivotal to the outcome of tomorrow's Grand Prix.

"To get to Q3 and be on the front row with a strategic advantage tomorrow is an exciting place to be," he said, adding that race pace tyre degradation had looked unexpectedly bad for everyone in Friday's practice runs.

"I think it's gonna be very close between a one- and a two-stop," he suggested. "With our mediums, we can put Ferrari in a difficult position and try and force them into an error and get the upper hand, so that's what we're looking for."

It's also been a boost for Russell that he's been consistently stronger in Singapore than his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton, who will start from fifth on the grid tomorrow.

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