George Russell has praised the work of the Mercedes team after they locked out the front row of the starting grid for the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix, highlighting a complete turnaround in fortunes for the Silver Arrows over the F1 season.
Mercedes will start the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix on Sao Paolo first and second after Russell won the F1 Sprint Race and Lewis Hamilton came third. Carlos Sainz of Ferrari received a five-place grid penalty after splitting the Mercedes cars on Saturday.
“I think it’s a pretty big milestone for the whole team,” Russell told the press after the F1 Sprint Race.
“When we look back at where we were at the very first sprint of the year, I think I finished eighth, I want to say and I don’t know where you [looking at Hamilton] maybe ninth or something behind us.
“And here we are going to be lining up one-two tomorrow, I think is really exciting. And [I’m] so proud of the whole team, to keep on delivering with the car, but it’s going to be interesting.
“Obviously, Max [Verstappen] is the main man at the moment. And those medium tires just didn’t seem to work.”
Focussing on Verstappen, Russell was keen to make it known that Mercedes didn’t expect to have the pace advantage over the Red Bull.
“I think we were confident that we could finish second and we thought Max would probably have quite an easy run to be honest,” Russell continued.
“We knew that if we went ahead of him at Turn 1, it was going to be very difficult to to stay ahead. And I started attacking in the early laps. And I thought once he gets some temperature in his tires, he’ll be away and it was a little bit tricky.
“You had to balance the risk reward, because obviously there’s only one extra point, and as much as I want to wanted to win this race today is only one extra point and you’re setting yourself up for tomorrow [Sunday].
“So you had to be a little bit careful. Max’s got nothing to lose, really. So he was going to be driving aggressively.
“Even though Max and Red Bull didn’t have a strong race, they’re probably in a slightly better position than the three of us [Russell, Sainz and Hamilton] going into the race as they’ve got that one extra set of new softs.”
Russell did manage to put his Mercedes on pole position in Hungary, but a sensational drive from Verstappen saw the Red Bull come from 10th on the grid to win at the Hungaroring. Russell finished third.
“We got pole position via a qualifying session [in Hungary],” Russell said.
“This is the first time we’ve crossed the finish line in first position in a race. It obviously is a little bit of a shame that this wasn’t the race. But nevertheless, as I said it really goes to show the work we’ve done and I think we’re definitely going to be very excited.
“Obviously having Lewis and I one-two on the grid is going to give us some options with the strategy. And I think we have to work together to do something different for one of us to try and get the victory for the team.”