Suzuka, Japan - Mercedes’ star drivers, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, have voiced concerns following a surprising gap in qualifying performance against their competitor, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton: "Definitely worrying for us as a team."
Reflecting on the trials and tribulations of the Suzuka circuit, Hamilton remarked, “Yesterday was horrendous but [we] made some good changes overnight, and the car was feeling really good today”.
Though the adjustments enhanced the car’s performance, they remain perplexingly behind the frontrunners. "We are a long way away on rear downforce so that’s why we are so slow in the first sector. The laps felt really good, but we are just one second away, which is like crazy,” Hamilton continued.
Facing a daunting challenge ahead, Hamilton doesn’t seem optimistic about Sunday's race. He frankly answered when asked about the possibility of a better race outcome, “No. Think we are just going to struggle like everybody else.
It’s going to be tough tomorrow”.
Russell: "Always a bit shocking when you see the gap on paper."
George Russell, in a similar tone, shared Hamilton's reservations. "It [has been] a difficult weekend so far,” he stated, hinting at the team's lack of anticipation of the challenge posed by the Suzuka circuit.
Although they were cognizant of their competitors' strengths, with McLaren’s anticipated speed and Red Bull’s return to form, Russell confessed to being taken aback by the extent of the performance gap. However, all hope is not lost for the Mercedes team.
Looking forward to the race, Russell stated, “Maybe we can find an opportunity with the strategy. Will be at least a two-stop race tomorrow which is always quite fun. Gives some different opportunities, but as I said the order should stay as it is”.
Will the strategists and racers manage to turn the tables, or will they concede to the prowess of Red Bull and McLaren? One thing is certain, the Japanese Grand Prix is shaping up to be a riveting contest of will, skill, and engineering excellence.