Russell tops Friday sessions in his Mercedes debut

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, Friday – Steve Etherington

George Russel is off to a great start to this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix from Bahrain. George led both Free Practice sessions as a stand-in for the COVID-19 impacted Lewis Hamilton. He also led veteran teammate, Valtteri Bottas.

It was Max Verstappen second quickest in his Red Bull and Sergio Perez in his Racing Point in third.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was quick to ask for calm with the F1 community buying about Russell’s performance:

“We need to calm everybody down, because it was a first session on a new and short circuit,” Wolff said.

“He delivered a really solid job, what we expected from him on a single lap.

“The long runs are difficult with all the cars anyway, and difficult to really establish a benchmark because Valtteri broke his car very early on in the session.

“He wasn’t really able to stop it properly. So I would say I’m happy with what George has done. It’s about what we expected him to.”

Russell did very well and Toto is right, racing is different than practicing but I would argue that George is currently racing in F1, understands traffic and might just surprise everyone.

I advocated last year that if I was at Mercedes, I would have moved George to the team this year instead of extending Valtteri’s contract for 2020. I was equally surprised they didn’t do that for 2021 but at the very least, George will put himself squarely in the shop window if he keeps this pace up over the weekend.

1George RussellMercedes54.713s
2Max VerstappenRed Bull/Honda0.128s
3Sergio PerezRacing Point/Mercedes0.153s
4Esteban OconRenault0.227s
5Alexander AlbonRed Bull/Honda0.323s
6Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri/Honda0.355s
7Lance StrollRacing Point/Mercedes0.391s
8Daniel RicciardoRenault0.411s
9Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri/Honda0.420s
10Carlos Sainz Jr.McLaren/Renault0.545s
11Valtteri BottasMercedes0.608s
12Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo/Ferrari0.771s
13Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo/Ferrari0.820s
14Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari1.025s
15Nicholas LatifiWilliams/Mercedes1.071s
16Sebastian VettelFerrari1.117s
17Lando NorrisMcLaren/Renault1.318s
18Pietro FittipaldiHaas/Ferrari1.397s
19Jack AitkenWilliams/Mercedes1.547s
20Charles LeclercFerrari
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Peter Riva

Yup, you called it and Toto is doing a two-step to cover up… in the end this looks BAD for MB — IT’S THE CAR — not necessarily the driver that is superior. OOPS Toto!

Worthless Opinion

I don’t know man, they’re about to negotiate with Lewis who’s gonna want 150 million e to drive for a year, if Georgie shows anyone can do it those negotiations will change in a way that makes Toto’s budget task child’s work.

Worthless Opinion

I haven’t been this excited about an F1 weekend in years. Go Georgie!

Tim C

Practice is just that . . . practice. We don’t know what programs teams are running. Are they on light or heavy fuel loads, trying different set-up, testing tire ware etc. A driver can certainly be fast over one or two laps. What’s important is what happens over a 20 or 30 lap run. It’s great that George is showing pace in the MB car, but let’s see how qualifying and the race play out before drawing any real conclusions. I’m just glad he’s in a competitive car so he has a real chance of showing what he can do.