Russell already expects Mercedes to be weaker in qualifying than race

The 25-year-old British driver admits Mercedes are still struggling over a single lap

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George Russell echoed the thoughts of Lewis Hamilton in admitting the two Mercedes drivers are likely to find it difficult during qualifying for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix.

Mercedes brought a raft of updates to Monaco, but given the unique nature of the Monte Carlo street circuit, it wasn’t until the W14 took to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya that the team expected to gain valuable insight into their upgrade package.

And while Russell led the Friday challenge in Barcelona, the best he could do was 10th in FP1 and eighth in FP2, as a number of other teams debuted upgrades of their own.

“We are where we are,” Russell said. “A lot of people are bringing upgrades to the car, we weren’t expecting to suddenly set the world on fire, and we just need to learn what we can from the info we’ve got, and to try to move forward tomorrow.

“I think qualifying is going to be tight. There’s a few cars who are definitely fast on a Saturday – Alpine are looking really strong, so between us, Ferrari and Alpine – it’s probably going to be tight.”

Geared up for a good race

It might have been a difficult practice day for the former world champions, but Russell expects the W14 to perform better in race trim than across a single lap in Spain, in keeping with the Mercedes 2023 playbook.

The win is likely out of reach given the pace of Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso, but Russell finished FP2 just two tenths out of third place, meaning there is still cause for optimism.

“It was only Friday, I think we learned a huge amount and we’ll dig into the data tonight,” Russell added.

“We know that we’re not Friday specialists and we often take a bit of a step forward on Saturday and Sunday, so it’s the right way round for it to be.

“I don’t expect us to be having an incredible day tomorrow, but I certainly expect us to be having a better Sunday than Saturday, so that’s what we’re gearing up for.”

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