RACE DEBRIEF

    Lewis Hamilton and George Russell start on the third row behind Ferrari and Red Bull in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, with seven-time champion Hamilton explaining that a couple of issues made for a tough qualifying on Saturday.

    Hamilton qualified fifth and nearly seven-tenths off Max Verstappen’s pole-setting pace on Saturday at Yas Marina Circuit, and the five-time Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner said that brake issues plus bouncing on the straights cost him in Saturday’s session.

    READ MORE: Verstappen storms to pole as Red Bull score 1-2 in final qualifying session of the season at Yas Marina

    “Yeah, we’ve had brake problems a lot most of the year. Front separation: so if the one is at 200 degrees, the other one is at 700 or 800 degrees [Celsius]. So, when you hit the brakes, the car pulls one way. So, I was trying to get the other one to come up, but it was never equalling the other brake. Normally they would both be exactly the same.

    “I imagine [our race pace will be] similar to today. We are bouncing again,” he added. “I don’t know if we will be heading for a podium but if our [tyre] degradation is better, then maybe.”

    1442780024
    Russell won the penultimate Grand Prix of the season but starts sixth in Abu Dhabi

    Russell, who arrived in Abu Dhabi having won the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, qualified sixth and just 0.003s behind his team mate for the season finale.

    “To be honest in terms of the result, it’s probably where we expected to be,” he said. “On a circuit like this, we know we don’t have the most efficient car, and with those long straights we’re just getting mullered by a Red Bull.

    READ MORE: Verstappen says ‘chaotic’ situation nearly derailed bid for third-straight Abu Dhabi pole

    “But I think we’ve got a much faster race car tomorrow, and long run pace looked pretty strong compared to Ferrari. Let’s see what tomorrow brings – but pace is maybe a little bit further away than we would’ve liked,” concluded Russell.

    Mercedes are 19 points behind Ferrari as they aim to upset the Scuderia and snatch second in the constructors’ standings on Sunday, while Russell is fourth in the drivers' championship and 25 points ahead of fifth-placed Hamilton.