George Russell has clinched his first pole position in Formula 1, although Mercedes were still far from the pace on Friday.
“What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours.” Hardly any other team fits the old classic song by Dinah Washington as well as Mercedes.
Friday in Hungary was so “disastrous” and the Silver Arrows so far from the top that Lewis Hamilton saw no hope of a top spot and predicted a gap of a second.
Just one day later, George Russell suddenly celebrates his first pole position in Formula 1. “We did it 100 percent today and got every single millisecond out of it,” the Briton marvels at the result, which put him 0.044 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz in Q3 saw.
The question is how Mercedes suddenly managed to do that, when the car is actually much weaker than in the race in one lap – and the long run pace in particular was not competitive at all on Friday. Or to put it in Russell’s words: “It was the worst Friday ever.”
“We have already said that we have to write down everything we did this morning – including the food and drink we had in order to repeat the result,” jokes motorsport director Toto Wolff, somewhat incredulous towards ‘Sky’. “But that’s how we take it.”
Mercedes car turned upside down
After the bad Friday, Mercedes “turned the W13 upside down” overnight, as Russell says, in order to get to the bottom of all the problems. “We think there were a lot of reasons for that and it all added up to a one-second deficit,” said the Briton. “And today we had such a day and maybe we were first out of pure pace.”
“We’ve definitely turned the tide and are back where we want to be,” he says.
Toto Wolff says that Mercedes saw right from the start of qualifying that the tires were in the right window this time. “The car was well balanced and somehow everything came together,” said the Austrian. “George rode well and gained confidence from run to run and then the grip was there. And then you get a result like that.”
… and suddenly there was silence
For him, Q3 was an emotional roller coaster ride. Because while Lewis Hamilton had a problem with the DRS, Russell suddenly drove strong sector times. “Of course I saw the delta time and I remember saying to the engineers that this is about pole for us. And then there was silence on the other side,” he says.
“And after sector two, we knew it was going to be pretty tight. And those are the moments I enjoy so much in Formula 1. It’s unexpected, but the performance is really there, and then you do it,” so Wolff.
Theoretically, Mercedes would have to be declared the favorite for Sunday, because the pace in the race was always much better and it’s very difficult to overtake at the Hungaroring. But Russell doesn’t think about that: “We know that we have a faster car in the race than in qualifying. But if that’s the case again this weekend, I would be shocked.”