After a very difficult trio of practice sessions at the Hungaroring, in which George Russell and Lewis Hamilton both struggled with grip and sub-optimal tyre temperatures, the team impressed in qualifying to snatch a very unexpected pole position with George Russell ahead of both Ferrari drivers.
Speaking after qualifying, Russell didn’t hold back the emotions as he explained just what this pole position means after he and the team endured their “worst Friday of the season” in Budapest, and how the team had to work very hard to turn their fortunes around on Saturday – which also started poorly, with both drivers struggling for grip on a very wet track in FP3:
“[I’m] over the moon, absolutely buzzing. I mean, yesterday was probably our worst Friday of the season, and everybody last night was working so hard, we didn’t really know what direction to go in.
“And then that last lap [in Q3]. Got around turn one, mega turn one. Went around turn two, turn two was mega. And the lap time just kept on coming, kept on coming. I came across the line, looked at the screen, and saw P1, and that was an incredible feeling.”
Asked if he thinks Mercedes is now back in the hunt with Red Bull and Ferrari, Russell explained how the team has to analyse where its pace came from and whether they can maintain that over the race distance:
“I don’t know to be honest. We need to look into it and understand where that [pace] came from today – there’s a few ideas we have. At the end of the day, there’s no points for qualifying.
“We generally have good race pace, but the Ferrari looked very fast on Friday, but we’re gonna be absolutely going for it. Either way, that was a very special day, no doubt.”
Team boss and CEO at Mercedes, Toto Wolff explained how getting the tyres up to working temperature was the key behind Russell’s pole position lap, as the team had struggled all weekend long to work the tyres in their operating window:
“We saw from the beginning of qualifying that our tyres were in the right window, the car was balanced, and then everything kind of came together. And then George [Russell] drove it really well, gained confidence from round to round, and this is the result.”
Despite the excellent qualifying result, Wolff is not getting carried away with the success, emphasising “one bird doesn’t make a summer” and that the car needs to show good race pace for the team to really consider themselves as a threat to Red Bull and Ferrari again.
“One bird doesn’t make a summer. That’s a solid result, we were always off the pace on a single lap, now we’re on pole, so let’s see what we can do with that tomorrow in the race. And if we’re able to have the pace there, I believe we are part of the funny games at the front again.
“I think if we can maintain the position at the start, and be first coming out of the first lap, drive a solid race and have some good stops, why not? We can win this.
“We haven’t been in the hunt for wins this season, we know how quick Ferrari was all the time, and Charles [Leclerc] was solid in the lead in the last race. Max [Verstappen] is a bit further behind, which is also not bad for an end result. I think he will be highly motivated as will be Lewis [Hamilton],” concluded Wolff.
“COME ONNNNN!!! WOOOOO!”pic.twitter.com/JbMbuN7cL6— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) July 30, 2022