Russell credits set-up changes for Mercedes’ “surprise” bid for pole position · RaceFans

George Russell admitted he was surprised by Mercedes’ performance in qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix and disappointed to miss out on pole position.

He will line up alongside pole-winner Max Verstappen tomorrow after coming within 0.236 seconds of the Red Bull.

“We weren’t expecting that, that’s for sure,” Russell said after qualifying. “What a session for us.”

Having qualified around six tenths of a second off the pace in the opening two rounds of the year, Russell said his car felt much more competitive around the Albert Park circuit.

“The car felt alive,” he said. “The lap at the end was right on the limit.

“To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t get pole position. It is one of those things how your expectations change so quickly in this sport. We probably would have been happy with a top four, top five yesterday, but the car felt awesome and it goes to show we’ve definitely got potential still to come.”

Mercedes have only brought minor upgrades to its W14 since the first race of the season in Bahrain. Russell said the gains they have made are the result of changing how they set the car up.

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“It is a surprise, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “I think we’re learning more about this car.

“We know it’s not where we want it to be but it’s probably evolved just with the set-up from Bahrain to Jeddah to here. We’ve seen that performance improvement with the exact same car.

“For sure tyres played a big part this weekend and the pace on that final lap was quite surprising. Really pleased to just be two-and-a-half tenths off when we were a second off on other occasions.”

After being disappointed by their performance at the opening race Mercedes has already committed to overhauling its W14. Russell said what they have been able to achieve with the car in its current form gives them hope of begin consistently more competitive in the future.

“We know we’ve made some huge gains over the past two or three weeks in the wind tunnel and hopefully we’ll be bringing that to the track sooner or later,” he said.

“But this result today is going to give us a huge amount of confidence, regardless of what tomorrow brings over the course of the next four weeks. Because if we can deliver a performance like this with a car that is definitely quite a bit off the pace it shows good promise for when we bring the first upgrade.”

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