George Russell predicts Max Verstappen “will cruise to victory”

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

After inheriting P2 due to multiple drivers taking grid penalties, George Russell says Mercedes doesn’t “deserve” the position, but adds he’ll “try to finish ahead of Charles”.

George Russell qualified for the Italian Grand Prix in P6, but due to multiple drivers taking grid penalties he will start the race in P2.

After qualifying the Briton said Mercedes doesn’t deserve that position.

“We don’t deserve to be starting P2 after today’s performance,” Russell said.

“It was… a frustrating session because we can’t seem to get the car in that sweet spot. FP1, the car felt great, in FP2, FP3 – substantially worse.

“In Q1, the car felt great, a few tenths off Ferrari. Q2 was worse; Q3 was worse. But ultimately that’s been a theme this season.

“Lining up P2, we’ll have a faster race car, probably not fast enough to battle with, potentially Charles.”

Max Verstappen is one of the drivers taking a grid penalty, but Russell thinks he will almost certainly win the race.

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“I think you’d be pretty stupid to bet against it. He just needs to keep his nose clean in the first two laps and he will cruise to victory.

“We will try to finish ahead of Charles. That will be an exciting race. But today they qualified 1.4s ahead, so perhaps it won’t quite be like Spa.

“There’s three drivers from the three front teams all on their own with teammates right at the back of the grid, so we will be kind of in two separate races.

“Those guys should be slicing through the field very quickly and if there is a safety car midway through the race, then they will be in the fight as well.

“I’m sure they will be on an off-set strategy as well, so there’s no reason those three are out of the race. As we’ve seen — a few VSCs, a few safety cars can play into other people’s favor.”

For most of this season Mercedes has been performing much better in races than in qualifying. This gives George hope for tomorrow, although he admits the team still doesn’t understand why their car is so inconsistent.

“I’d love to tell you. We’ve got the best engineers in the business working day and night to understand why our performance is fluctuating so much 15 races in and we still don’t have a grasp as to why that is. So that is a bit disappointing.

“We are in no man’s land on a Saturday in terms of performance because we’re so far behind the front two and a little bit ahead of the midfield. At least we have a fast race car.

“We want to win races. That’s still the goal. The goal is to definitely win races but having looked at the last race, having looked at Budapest, when we’ve sort of compromised our race to cover off a faster car has ended up compromising the overall result.

“So perhaps we need to take a slightly different approach for ourselves. Perhaps it will pay dividends later on.

“But realistically I hope we should be on the podium tomorrow. But I’d like to think also we can fight for a win,” the Briton concluded.

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