Russell targeting Bahrain GP podium fight as Mercedes drivers prepare to take on ‘unknown’ Alonso
George Russell has set his sights on a podium in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix after his Mercedes team recovered from “a bit of a shocker” in Friday practice to end up sixth on the grid.
The Briton was 0.6s adrift of pole-sitter Max Verstappen, whose Red Bull team locked out the front row with Sergio Perez in second and the second Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton a fraction further back in seventh.
READ MORE: Verstappen beats Perez to pole for 2023 opener in Bahrain GP qualifying thriller
“After yesterday – we had a bit of a shocker, so credit to all of the engineers who worked overnight and the people back at the factory to find a lot more pace – to be fair this is probably where we expected to be after testing and ahead of the race weekend,” said Russell.
“Obviously not super positive, but we’ve got to take some positives out of the fact that we made some good gains overnight and it’s probably given us a good direction for the future.”
According to F1’s data, Mercedes looked like they could be second in the race pace rankings if they maintained their tyre degradation advantage over Ferrari and Aston Martin and that is perhaps why Russell feels like a podium is up for grabs despite starting behind both Ferraris and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
“I think even yesterday our race pace wasn’t too dissimilar to Ferrari, but considering our base performance seemed really poor yesterday, we’re probably in better shape,” added Russell.
READ MORE: Verstappen explains why he’s ‘particularly happy’ with Bahrain pole after ‘unusual’ approach by Red Bull
“Fernando’s a bit of an unknown. I think those two Red Bulls at the front are just going to disappear into the distance so I guess the fight for third is definitely up for grabs.”
Hamilton was half a second clear of next-best Lance Stroll in seventh – and is hopeful that Sunday’s race will deliver more performance.
“The car felt okay – nothing major,” he said. “I think tomorrow, I’m hoping – I’ve set it up for the race, so hopefully it works better in the race!”