Russell 'gutted' to miss pole but says if someone had told him he'd be P2 they'd be 'having my pants down'
George Russell missed out on a first career pole position by just 0.026s at Sakhir and, while the Mercedes debutant admitted he was “gutted” to miss out on pole, he was also over the moon to qualify on the front row for the first time in his career given he'd been expecting to race a Williams this weekend.
It's been a whirlwind week for Russell, who replaced Covid-hit Lewis Hamilton for this weekend at Sakhir. The 22-year-old only learned the news on Tuesday and, using a choice turn of phrase, admitted his delight at qualifying P2 for the Sakhir Grand Prix.
He said: “I am really pleased; In some ways being so close [to pole] makes it slightly frustrating, but nevertheless if you told me four days ago that I’d be qualifying P2 this weekend I thought you’d have been having my pants down.
“I guess, yesterday was a good day. I got into the car, working really well with the team, building on it lap after lap and then into FP3 was a woeful session. Mistakes, pushing too hard, trying this, trying that, and it just didn’t really come together.”
Some would perhaps have expected Russell to take pole position after he swept Friday’s sessions, but Russell was realistic about his chances having experienced a swift introduction to life at Mercedes.
“It’s been really tough for me to jump in last minute, learn a new car, working with new engineers, understanding the set-up, how to make this car go fast because it’s a completely different ball game really.”
Furthermore, having the experienced nine-time Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas to contend with meant that Russell ended Saturday content.
“I think you know Valtteri has pushed Lewis a huge amount in qualifying over the years,” he continued.
“Statistically there’s only been a tenth between them and we all know how great Lewis is. Just to be right behind Valtteri, coming in last minute [with] two days of prep, I’m pleased, I’m pleased – so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Russell and Bottas start the Sakhir Grand Prix on medium compound tyres but have Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ready to make their lives difficult from the second row. All eyes on the start, then, as it’s lights out on Sunday at 2010 local time.