"We weren't expecting that, that's for sure": George Russell feels there's definite potential for Mercedes to challenge Max Verstappen for the win
George Russell takes P2 behind pole-sitter Max Verstappen in the qualifying session for the 2023 Australian GP. The Briton put in a stellar lap at the end of Q3, proving that his Mercedes has the pace to match the frontrunners.
While the German team struggled through the weekend, both cars came alive in Saturday's qualifying, with Lewis Hamilton taking P3 at the end of qualifying. The Silver Arrows managed to outqualify both Aston Martins, who have generally enjoyed the second-fastest car so far in 2023.
Both Mercedes drivers will be looking to capitalize on their excellent qualifying results and will also be hoping to challenge Max Verstappen's Red Bull on Sunday. George Russell claims he is disappointed that he didn't get pole position, claiming his expectations changed immensely once he realized what the car is capable of on the semi-street circuit.
Speaking to Naomi Schiff in Parc Ferme after the event, George Russell said about his excellent qualifying session:
"We weren't expecting that, that's for sure. A lot of hard work going on back at the factory and here in Melbourne and wow what a session for us. The car felt alive. The lap at the end was right on the limit. I'm gonna be honest, I was a little disappointed that we didn't get pole position."
"It's one of those things, how your expectations change so quickly in this sport. We probably would have been happy with a top four- top five yesterday but the car felt awesome and it goes to show we've definitely got potential still to come".
George Russell picked over Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes' main title challenger by former driver
Felipe Massa has expressed his endorsement of George Russell as Mercedes' top contender for future championships, surpassing Lewis Hamilton. However, Massa stressed that Hamilton should never be underestimated.
During the previous season, Russell joined Mercedes and partnered with Hamilton for the first time. He not only outshone his teammates in the Drivers' Championship rankings but also secured his initial pole position and race triumph in Hungary and Sao Paulo, respectively.
The former Williams driver has now also out-qualified Lewis Hamilton for the third time in 2023.
Despite Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes being confident about producing a better car in 2023 following their difficulties with the W13, early indications show that they still have a long way to go before they can compete for race victories. Red Bull is currently leading the pack, with a distinct advantage over Mercedes.
Speaking about George Russell eventually challenging for the title, Massa told Bild:
“I trust him to do that. Don’t forget: last year, in his first season at Mercedes, he left Lewis behind in the World Championship. An incredible achievement. Before that, only Nico Rosberg in 2016 had achieved this in Lewis’ entire career. George is a top driver.”
With both Mercedes' starting behind the sole Red Bull for Sunday's main race, it will be interesting to see which of the two teams emerge victorious.