After the past few weeks, many had expected that Mercedes would be at the top again at some point in the season. But the fact that it is in the previous weak discipline, qualifying, and also happens before the summer break in Hungary, comes as a surprise. But George Russell took care of the first real 1 of a Mercedes on Saturday.
But the Brit almost stoically accepts his first pole position in Formula 1. “At the end of the day there are no points for qualifying,” he says, already looking ahead to the race on Sunday.
“I’m already thinking about tomorrow. I’m thinking about the start, about turn 1, how I can stay in the lead and what I have to do to win the race,” said the Mercedes driver. “Pole position and a good Saturday are great, but I’ve learned this year that Saturdays don’t mean much. Sunday is where the points and prizes are awarded.”
Nevertheless, he emphasizes that this qualifying means a lot for his team. Because that’s how you go into the summer break with a positive Saturday and you can see the progress you’ve made as a team.
Because qualifying hasn’t exactly been the Silver Arrows’ parade discipline so far. A Mercedes has never managed to get past fourth place on the grid this season. In Hungary, however, Russell even took first place and took the lead in the qualifying duels against teammate Lewis Hamilton with 6:7.
Russell is going for the win
The question is whether Mercedes can transfer the good pace into the race on Sunday, which was more of a strength this year – but not in Hungary, where the team experienced a “disastrous” Friday. “In general, we have a good race pace, but the Ferraris looked pretty strong on Friday,” said Russell when asked about his chances. “But we will absolutely try!”
He says in no uncertain terms: “We’re going for victory!”
But Russell isn’t thinking about the victory itself: “You take each day individually and don’t get carried away, you just focus. Step by step, good start, good first stint. Will it be one, two or three stops?”
“I know that the guys around me won’t make it easy for me, including Max [Verstappen] Not. Of course this is a good place to have a good qualifying session, but it still counts when you have a faster car in the race than in qualifying.”
Because if there is more than one pit stop, there are a number of ways for the competition to find a way past the pit stops. “You can’t defend then because the others could come in sooner or later,” he says.
First Mercedes winner means nothing
And just because Mercedes made a huge leap for Saturday doesn’t necessarily mean something for the race. Because he knows that everything went 100 percent for him on Saturday. “If you can get everything in the perfect window, then the car can just fly. But if just one thing isn’t right, everything can’t be right.”
“There is no guarantee that overnight changes will result in better performance tomorrow. And there is no guarantee that they will result in better performance in future races,” said Russell. “But of course, for today, the conditions were right. Let’s see tomorrow (Sunday; editor’s note).”
Victory in Hungary would be an important step on the way back to the top for both George Russell and Mercedes. For Russell it would be the first victory in Formula 1, for Mercedes the long-awaited first of the season. But it doesn’t matter to Russell whether he gets it himself or Hamilton for the team.
“The statistic of being the first to win for your team is meaningless,” he says. “We’re both here and we want to fight for championships. And for that you need pole positions and you need race wins. And we have to work together. Today was a great day but that’s not my focus. I just want to do the best job possible. Totally easy.”