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09 July 2022
What the teams said – Qualifying in France
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George Russell says his Mercedes team’s pace was not “where we hoped or expected it to be” after he couldn’t hold on to the leading Red Bull and two Ferraris in the Austrian GP Sprint and crossed the line a lonely fourth…
The Silver Arrows had looked quicker than expected at the Red Bull Ring on Friday, but qualifying crashes for both Russell and team mate Lewis Hamilton caused significant damage and put them on the back foot heading into Saturday’s Sprint event.
READ MORE: Verstappen leads battling Ferraris for Sprint victory and P1 grid spot for the Austrian GP
Russell got away cleanly from fourth but lost around 0.6s per lap to race leader Max Verstappen and the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc, while running comfortably ahead of Esteban Ocon. Even when Sergio Perez fought up into fifth, Russell had enough of an advantage to cruise home for five points.
“Nothing happened whatsoever,” said Russell with a smile after the Sprint. “I spent most [of it] watching Lewis battling with the two Haas cars and Alex [Albon] and Seb [Vettel] [on the big screens]. That was about it.
“A huge thanks to everyone in the garage who did an incredible job to repair and get two cars out today. It’s still points on the board, and we’re still in a good position for tomorrow sat in P4 but ultimately our pace wasn’t where we hoped or expected it to be.”
When asked if he was surprised at the way Red Bull and Ferrari were able to pull away from him, Russell said: “Yes to be honest. We had a difficult practice, we forecasted to be about half a second off but thought in the back of our minds we could be closer than that – and as it turned out, [half a second] was correct. Work to do for tomorrow.”
Hamilton had a frustrating day that yielded eighth place – a gain of one position from his starting spot – and a solitary point after he spent most of the time staring at the back of Mick Schumacher’s Haas, having suffered contact with Pierre Gasly at the start – and then with a Red Bull and Williams further up the hill.
“Firstly, I didn’t have a good start,” he said. “Secondly, I don’t understand these drivers. Moving across, I don’t know if they know they are moving across, but it was just unnecessary, [Gasly] had so much space on his right.
READ MORE: ‘We cannot afford to do what we did today’ says Leclerc after battling team mate Sainz in Sprint
“That is unfortunate for sure. I have got some sort of damage there, I don’t know exactly what but it was a big hit to my front. I’m just grateful I could continue. And then I got another one further up, with the Williams and the Red Bull – they did the same thing. I managed to just survive.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Hamilton added: “I hope it’s not like today. We’ll see. But fingers crossed.”
5 things we learned from Friday practice at the French Grand Prix
HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the action from a dramatic qualifying session at the French Grand Prix
Hamilton thrilled with 'beautiful lap' for P4 as he and Russell aim to battle Perez on Sunday
AS IT HAPPENED: Follow all the action from qualifying for the French Grand Prix
Sainz set for 10-place grid penalty in France after taking new engine component
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