George Russell: “We’ve been making good steps with the car on Fridays”

George Russell believed it was not a bad day for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team at Albert Park on Friday, and he felt they were making good steps with the W14 throughout the day.

Russell ended ninth fastest in the opening session and fourth in the second, although both sessions were full of interruptions – red flags flew twice in the first session while rain hit the track in the second.

With the car feeling better than it has earlier in the season, Russell admits it feels ‘quite satisfying’ that he is able to push harder in Australia, although he hopes the rain that hit Melbourne on Friday comes back again on Saturday so they can fight closer to the front of the pack in Qualifying.

“Overall, it wasn’t too bad a day,” said Russell.  “We’ve been making good steps with the car on Fridays. We’ve been changing a few things and getting the car in a nice window as the weekend progresses.

“That’s quite satisfying from the driver’s seat, knowing that the car feels better and as a team we have contributed towards that.

“FP2 was frustrating for everybody with the rain. It was still a reasonable session for us though, as we made a step forward from FP1. Let’s see what tomorrow brings with the weather. The rain came in quite suddenly today and there may be some around tomorrow so I would be happy for things to be spiced up.”

Russell says the track at Albert Park is a lot different compared to what they experienced in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago, and it could see drivers doing multiple laps on one set of tyres due to the low degradation of the compounds.

“The difference in tarmac race-to-race has a substantial effect on the car and the feeling of driving it,” Russell said.  “Jeddah and Melbourne have similar tarmac so you can really push the tyres hard. You can do numerous push laps which is unique; in Qualifying we’re going to be doing lots of laps.

“That’s different to the norm so it could be exciting. We know we’ve got more performance to come in future races, but we need to maximise our chances this weekend.

“We will keep trying our best to maximise the potential of the car.”

“This morning was good, but this afternoon wasn’t as good” – Lewis Hamilton

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton had a much different day in the second W14, with a second place finish in the opening session being followed by a lowly thirteenth in the second.

Hamilton revealed that changes were made to his W14 in between sessions that made his car feel worse than it did, and he expects those changes to be reversed ahead of Saturday’s running.

The seven-time World Champion knows that Mercedes will not be fighting against Oracle Red Bull Racing this weekend, but he hopes the car can be in the battle for a podium finish, which would be the first of the season for the team.

“This morning was good, but this afternoon wasn’t as good,” said Hamilton. “We made some changes after FP1 that didn’t quite work and we will look to revert this evening.

“It also rained in FP2, so it wasn’t the greatest of sessions. You don’t tend to learn a huge amount in those mixed conditions. It’s more about keeping the car safe.

“As we saw this morning, traffic is always an issue here. Everyone had troubles in FP1 with the GPS so hopefully that won’t happen again, and we won’t get in each other’s way.

“We won’t be competing against the Red Bulls tomorrow. We will be trying to get up as high as possible though; I think we’ve got similar pace to the last race in Saudi Arabia.”

Lewis Hamilton ended outside the top ten in second practice – Credit: Jiri Krenek