George Russell believes Mercedes could find life more tough going at Suzuka than they did in Singapore and predicts it will be “more of a struggle.”
Mercedes may have finished P9 and P14 in Singapore but for the first time this season, that was through no fault of the car.
Lewis Hamilton managed to qualify in P3, demonstrating that the W13 had found some pace, and while Russell did not achieve such a similar feat, he did set the fastest lap in the race.
Ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, the Brit was asked whether he expected the recent upturn in performance to continue at Suzuka but the 24-year-old was not overly confident.
“I mean, I’d love for it to be as competitive as it was last weekend, but I think it’s going to be a little bit more of a struggle,” he told the media. “I think Ferrari have been very fast in the medium, high-speed corners this year.
“The Red Bulls have been really slippery down the straights, which obviously, with only the one DRS zone here, they’ll probably be in a good place as well. So it’s not going to be straightforward, but I think we always show quite good pace on a Sunday. So there’s no reason why we can’t be in the fight.”
Russell also said that the pace of the W13 in Singapore did not surprise him and that it was in line with what he expected. That pace continued on into Friday’s running with Mercedes earning a one-two in FP2
“It’s sort of in line with what we expected,” Russell said. “I think these races, especially post-summer break, we’re getting a really clear trend of where our car is working well and where it’s not working and it’s given us a really sort of clear development direction to go down.
“So I think it is a shame for us as a team to have not capitalised on that race weekend. I think we all felt that. But for sure, there’s still a lot of positive signs to take away, especially that we really struggled on three circuits at the start of the year, and arguably that’s probably the fastest race weekend we had last week.”
His team-mate Hamilton said he was relieved the car “didn’t look slow” during FP2 but knew that once the track dried up, it would be a different story.
“If we get into the dry I imagine the Ferraris and Red Bulls will be quite quick,” Hamilton suggested.
“I hope we’ll be fast, but that’s a hope that continues to be the case each week.”
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