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Russell reflects on ‘frustrating’ Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as Hamilton predicts ‘challenging’ races ahead for Mercedes

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JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 09: George Russell of Great Britain and Mercedes looks on prior to the

It proved to be a frustrating Saturday evening at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix for the Mercedes team, with George Russell spending much of the race struggling to get past Fernando Alonso while Lewis Hamilton’s strategy gamble didn’t quite pay off.

After locking out the fourth row of the grid, Russell and Hamilton ended up on different strategies when a Safety Car was called following a crash for Lance Stroll on Lap 6 of 50, with Russell among the many drivers to pit for hard tyres while Hamilton was one of just four to stay out on the medium compound.

READ MORE: Verstappen seals assured victory in Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as Bearman scores points on debut

From there Russell was unable to make much headway while running behind Alonso and, despite increasingly applying pressure to the Aston Martin in the latter stages of the event, had to settle for sixth place, ultimately crossing the line four seconds behind the two-time world champion.

Asked for his reflections after the race, Russell joked: “The reflection was just seeing Fernando’s backside the whole race! I was between 1.1 and 1.6 for 40 laps, so that was a little bit frustrating.

Russell sums up his ‘frustrating’ day spent behind Alonso in Saudi Arabia

“When he went quicker, I followed him. When he went slower, I followed him, and I just couldn’t get any closer. A long afternoon. Contrasting feelings compared to [qualifying], so we need to understand where the car’s at and what we need to improve for Melbourne.”

In terms of where Mercedes currently sit in the pecking order, Russell suggested that the team’s performance has so far been too inconsistent to get an accurate measure on this.

READ MORE: Wolff ‘would love’ to have Verstappen as there’s no team who ‘wouldn’t do handstands’ to sign him

“Right now we’re fluctuating in performance quite a lot,” the Briton explained. “We’re seeing potential in the car, but unfortunately these last two weekends we haven’t really shown it when it’s mattered, so we need to understand why that is and what we need to do.

“But as we’ve seen, it is very close between ourselves, McLaren, Aston and Ferrari. We just need to be on top of it.”

‘It was worth a gamble’ – Hamilton explains why Mercedes strategy didn’t work out in Jeddah

As for Hamilton, the seven-time world champion stretched out his stint on the medium tyres until Lap 37, when he made his pit stop for the hard compound. Ending the race in P9, he acknowledged that the strategy didn’t work out but insisted that it was worth trying.

“The plan was to go long,” said Hamilton. “We tried our best, hoping for a VSC [Virtual Safety Car] or something, but it just never came to us. But it was worth a gamble. Unfortunately we went backwards a little bit, at least we lost a place, but I gave it everything and that was the best result I could get.”

FACTS AND STATS: Bearman makes it four Brits in the points for the first time since 1968

With the W15 having seemingly been struggling with bouncing during the event in Jeddah – an issue that particularly affected the squad during the past two seasons – Hamilton feels that Mercedes have some areas to focus on improving as the F1 paddock prepares to roll on to the next race on the calendar in Australia.

“It’s going to be challenging in these next races,” predicted Hamilton. “I think all the high-speed circuits, we’re going to be at a disadvantage with the package we currently have. But we’re good in the lower-speed and some of the medium-speed we’re not so bad, it’s really the high, so we need to add performance.”

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