Russell: Mercedes has powerful qualifying engine mode

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Williams driver George Russell has revealed that Mercedes’ improved powerful qualifying engine mode is one of the reasons behind his team’s impressive performances during the all-important Saturday sessions.

Williams has kicked off the curtailed season in a much better shape than in the previous two seasons. George Russell and newcomer Nicholas Latifi qualified 17th and 20th respectively for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix. The former F2 and F3 champion retired from the race with a fuel pressure issue, having been running in 13th place, whilst Latifi finished last of the running cars in 11th. Russell started 11th at the Styrian Grand Prix after a rain-affected qualifying session, narrowly missing out on Q3. This marked Williams' first Q2 appearance since the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.

At the third round of the season, the Hungarian Grand Prix, Williams raised the bar once again by securing a Q2 appearance with both its cars in dry conditions. Starting from the 12th position, Russell finished 18th while Latifi slipped down the order from 15th to 19th.

The first three events have indicated that Williams can compete with the middle field on Saturdays, but it drops down the order when the red lights go out on Sunday. Following the first three grands prix of the delay 2020 F1 season, George Russell urges his Grove based outfit to make strides in terms of race pace.

„Last year it was the opposite, our race pace was better than the qualifying pace. Now we are pretty fast on the Saturday and struggle a lot on the Sunday.

„However, if we look at everything and see the steps we have made, especially on the Saturdays, we have got to be relatively pleased. There are plenty of positives, we just need to rectify the negatives and make our pace of the car a bit better across the ball.”

While Ferrari has made a step back due to the technical directives regarding the power units, Mercedes has suddenly and surprisingly made a jump to the front in engine performance for 2020. Russell has revealed that Mercedes’ qualifying engine mode has also shown big improvements for this year that has played a significant part in Williams’ impressive showing at qualifying.

“Mercedes have made really good gains from last year in our qualifying modes which definitely helps us in comparison to Haas and Alfa Romeo who I think have taken a step backwards in the power unit side from Ferrari."

Russell has pinpointed to another issue with Williams’ 2020 car. The Briton has revealed that it was particularly difficult for him to follow rivals’ car in races which made on-track battles for Williams almost impossible.

“Our car is very sensitive to following others and becomes very difficult to control when following others and obviously on a Saturday you’re not following others. So that’s the only understanding we think we can take away from this. I feel like I just lose quite a lot of downforce and the car becomes quite unpredictable. The car’s very strong and feels really nice to drive in a qualifying format, but just in the race when following cars it isn’t.

"It takes confidence away from me and when I’m in clear air in the race our pace is strong, or during a practice session in clear air with high fuel the pace is strong, so all things are pointing towards or indicating it’s when we are following and our aero sensitivity is too high,” Russell concluded.