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Russell expects ‘a real fight’ during Austrian GP as Hamilton shares problem that plagued his qualifying

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Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton shared contrasting emotions after qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, with the pair set to start the race from third and fifth on the grid respectively.

Russell built on recent, encouraging performances – which included pole position in Canada – to round out the top three positions behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris in Saturday’s grid-deciding session.

READ MORE: Verstappen storms to pole position in Austria as he heads Norris and Russell

Reflecting on that showing, and if he was happy with his efforts, Russell said: “Yeah, absolutely. The car’s feeling really great at the moment, obviously the team have worked so hard bringing these upgrades.

“It feels like we’ve got a real fight on our hands, especially with Ferrari. I think we’re still a little bit behind McLaren and Max and Red Bull were flying today, but it’s definitely going in the right direction for us.”

Qualifying Highlights: 2024 Austrian Grand Prix

As for the changes made to his Mercedes after coming home fourth in the Sprint race, he added: “We changed the wing level, which helped a little bit… I think that’ll help the [tyre] deg for tomorrow. I’m happy to be in P3, because I think we compromised qualifying a little bit to help the race tomorrow.

“The fact is McLaren still have that edge on us, but as I said, three races in a row for us that we’re in the top three with Lewis and I, and that feels really great.”

AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix

Russell then jokingly shared his plan for race day, pointing to the wheel-to-wheel action involving Verstappen, Norris and the other McLaren of Oscar Piastri in the Sprint.

“I mean these two [Verstappen and Norris] were pretty dicey in the Sprint race so I think I’ll sit back, watch them do their thing and hopefully just sneak through on the inside!” Russell smiled.

“But realistically they’ve got the pace on us, our race is probably going to be behind us unfortunately, and it’s important that we don’t compromise our race too much battling with these guys. Let’s see.”

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 29: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle

Russell will start the Grand Prix just behind Norris and Verstappen

Hamilton, meanwhile, was again left to rue what might have been after his flashes of pace came undone by a mistake in the middle sector of his final Q3 lap – having struggled with understeer throughout qualifying.

“It wasn’t that it was tricky, I think it was just on the limit,” he said after qualifying, with his best lap some six hundredths slower than Russell’s. “I was struggling with… For some reason I had quite a lot of understeer and I couldn’t really add much wing.

READ MORE: Verstappen hails ‘statement’ Austrian GP pole after dominant qualifying display

“All these guys are so quick, it’s very, very close between us all. I’m relatively happy with my last lap, the middle sector was pretty poor, or not as good as I’d have liked. Turn 3 and 4, I lost a bit of time there, so I think if I’d got those two perfect, then perhaps it would have put me in the top three.”

Pushed on whether a podium is possible tomorrow, he added: “I think it’s very difficult. I think we can definitely fight the Ferraris, I don’t know if we can fight the McLarens, we’ll have to see. I’ll definitely be pushing to progress and see if we can get up there.”

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