Contrasting fortunes for the team as Qualifying leads to mixed up grid
- George Russell qualified third with Lewis Hamilton P10 for Saturday night’s Las Vegas Grand Prix.
- Returning to track action on Friday evening, FP3 saw the team gather long run data on the Medium tyre before turning to Qualifying preparation on the Soft tyre.
- A late session red flag left George top of the times but with others unable to show their true pace, there were numerous unknows heading into Qualifying.
- After progressing through Q1, the second segment of the session proved more challenging. Lewis was unable to improve on his final effort and as the track continued to evolve, he was bumped out of the top-10 by 0.028s.
- George did make it through to Q3 and, running only one set of new Soft tyres, made his final effort count to post the fourth fastest time. A 10-place grid drop for Carlos Sainz means he will line up P3 for the race, with Lewis P10.
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I’m very satisfied with Qualifying today. We were always up there in the top-four, but the Ferraris were a step ahead of everyone today. I think P4 maximised what we had, and we were close with Verstappen for P3. With the grid penalty for Sainz, I think third is a good place to be starting from.
The race itself is going to be very tricky. I am sure there will be a lot of graining for all teams in these cold conditions, but nobody knows exactly how it is going to play out. We may see multiple stops in tomorrow’s race but whoever manages to keep the tyres alive will be big beneficiaries. We had some difficult long runs and I think the Ferraris are quicker than us, not just on the single lap but in race pace. We will do our best to give Leclerc a fight though and hopefully the race will throw up a few surprises.
That wasn’t a great Qualifying session, but it is what it is. I really struggled for grip out there and we didn’t manage to get the tyres working throughout the whole session. It’s not ideal but it’s an issue I’ve been dealing with for a while. We saw a decent amount of track evolution. Not a crazy amount, but it was still enough to knock me out as I failed to improve on my final lap in Q2.
We’ve seen a lot of graining on the tyres up and down the field in practice, so it will be interesting to see if that continues in the Grand Prix. I think tyre management, how you bring the tyres in and how you progress in addition to where you push and don’t push will be key tomorrow. We made a few changes to the car ahead of FP3 and we’re hoping that they will help us in the race.
Getting the tyres in the right window remains a little bit of a mystery. You can see the difference between getting it correct and not so correct with our two cars today. We saw it earlier on in FP3 and it’s very difficult to optimise for. Lewis didn’t have any more grip on his final lap. I think we are really talking about only a few degrees centigrade between having grip and not having grip. You can also see this with there being a few surprise eliminations in Q1. On the other side, the Ferraris both put in stunning laps and were deservedly quickest.
It will be absolutely vital to manage the tyres well in the race tomorrow, as we have seen plenty of graining throughout the field in practice. We will have to be patient in the early stages and take it from there. We expect Leclerc and Verstappen, who are starting ahead of George, to be very quick but we will see what we can do.
Both drivers made a few changes to the car overnight and used the final practice to evaluate those. Whilst George was happier with his balance today, Lewis felt like he’d lost a bit of confidence in the car. We’d wound back on a few of those changes going into Qualifying, but the car wasn’t working for Lewis and ultimately, he got bumped in Q2 by a small margin. George was having a happier time and put together three solid runs. We didn’t have an answer for Ferrari’s single lap pace today and they were very strong. We still get to start third on the grid though which puts us in a good position to fight for a podium. There are a lot of unknowns going into the race, mainly around how the Hard tyre will warm up and how it will last on a long run. It’s clear the Soft and the Medium will suffer graining at some point if used, so we will need to deploy careful management. The Hard should allow for a bit more pushing however and that should open the race up a bit.
Source: Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team