George Russell: “The car felt fast, but I think Red Bull are ahead of us”

George Russell enjoyed a competitive looking day at the Yas Marina Circuit on Friday, with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver ending second fastest in both practice sessions.

Russell, the FIA Formula 1 World Championship’s newest race winner after taking the chequered flag first last weekend in São Paulo, ended the day strongly with the second best time, beaten only by World Champion Max Verstappen of Oracle Red Bull Racing.

The British racer feels Red Bull do have the edge on Mercedes at this stage of the weekend, but he believes Scuderia Ferrari could be beatable as the two teams battle over second place in the 2022 Constructors’ Championship.

“We had a very strong day in terms of what we’ve learned, given this is one of the last opportunities to gain learnings for the next season,” said Russell.  “With the test items that we ran during FP1, especially on my side of the garage, I’m looking forward to 2023 with what we’ve learned today.

“For FP2, the track changed completely with the temperature drop. The car felt fast, but I think Red Bull are ahead of us in terms of single lap pace and maybe even more so in the long runs. So, we have some work to do overnight, but compared to Ferrari our performance from what we can tell so far looks reasonable for this weekend.

“I’d like to think we’ll be able to fight for the top three in qualifying tomorrow and see where that can take us on Sunday. We will keep our heads down and put in the work overnight.”

“We hope we can be competitive with our race pace this weekend” – Lewis Hamilton

Team-mate Lewis Hamilton topped the opening session on Friday, but the seven-time World Champion slipped to fourth in the evening’s running, with the car not feeling as good as it had been earlier in the day.

Hamilton hopes the team can find a solution ahead of Saturday’s running to ensure Mercedes are in a good place heading into Qualifying, although tyre management, and in particular tyre warm-up, likely to be critical to get a good lap time on the board.

Looking ahead to the rest of the weekend, Hamilton hopes to end the year on a high with a strong performance, with the Briton having one last chance of preventing his first winless year of his Formula 1 career on Sunday.

“FP1 felt good today, which is a positive outlook for next year,” said Hamilton.  “In FP2, the car balance was a bit off, following some set-up changes between the sessions, so we will need to make some updates overnight but otherwise, we’re relatively competitive.

“Tyre management for qualifying tomorrow will be tough, in FP1 you could do a slow run to get the tyres working and in FP2 it took much longer to get them in the right window, so it’s a little bit like rolling a dice.

“We hope we can be competitive with our race pace this weekend, but still need to understand better where we are compared to the other teams. We will work hard overnight and hopefully we can be in the fight for the front.

“A big thank you to everyone in the factory and here at the track who have put in so much dedication and hard work to throughout the year.”

Lewis Hamilton was happier with the feeling of his car in the opening practice on Friday than he was in the second session – Credit: Jiri Krenek