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Russell: We can put pressure on Ferrari to try force an error

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George Russell gave it a very good shot at starting the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix from pole position, but will line-up from P2 instead from where he aims to take the fight to the Ferrari duo sandwiching him on the grid, as Red Bull fumble and perhaps out of contention for P1 on Sunday for the first time this season.

It was clear all weekend that Russell had something special ‘under the hood’ and when the chips were down he delivered a stellar Q3 final run to split the Reds and miss out on a top spot start by a mere 0.072s to Carlos Sainz, whose Ferrari will line up P1.

Nevertheless, it was a welcome surprise for Mercedes, who remains the last team to defeat Red Bull when Russell won in Sao Paulo last year. As for taking the fight to Ferrari, Russell believes that with a spare set of fresh Pirelli Mediums, for the race, he could make it happen. It would be a second GP win for him if he does.

In the Mercedes team report after Qualifying, Russell reflected on his strong evening under the lights of Marina Bay: “I’ve been really happy with this weekend as a whole. I’ve felt confident in the car and the team did a great job with the tyre strategy. We are on an offset strategy compared to everybody else, so we have an extra set of Medium tyres [for the race] which nobody around us has.

“So, to get to Q3, and then the front row, with just four sets of tyres and a strategic advantage, that’s an exciting place to be. It was a challenging session in the car – sitting in the garage, it’s like being in a sauna, and you just need to keep your composure and stay cool. The same will be true [Sunday]: traditionally this has been a one-stop race, but the new circuit layout has possibly changed that.

As for the race plan, Russell said: “I think it’s going to be close between a one- and a two-stop race, and with that extra Medium tyre available, we can put pressure on Ferrari and try and force an error to get the upper hand. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Hamilton: There is a lot to fight for

Hamilton: There is a lot to fight for singapore gp qualifying

In the sister Mercedes, Hamilton was half a second shy of the top time, and will line up fifth but remained upbeat: “The car was feeling incredible [Friday] and we had hoped that with some tweaks, we’d be able to challenge the Ferraris.

“We made some pretty big changes overnight, and it just came away from me again, and we didn’t have the speed. It’s obviously disappointing, especially because we clearly had a great package here and George was able to get on the front row.

“But tomorrow is a new day – and there is a lot to fight for. I hope George gets a great start tomorrow and puts some pressure on Ferraris; it would be great for him to get the win. On my side, I will be pushing to the maximum to go forward and see how the race unfolds in front,” added Hamilton, a four-time winner of the GP in Singapore. Record holder Sebastian Vettel has won one more.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, who made a point of congratulating Russell in parc ferme after a tense session, summed up: “We outperformed ourselves today. Singapore is a Ferrari track – they were strong here last year, too – so to get within a tenth of pole with George is fantastic. Lewis struggled more with the car, but we still have two cars in the top five, and that promises an exciting race.

“As for our expectations in the race, we have got to stay humble and do the work tonight. I hope it’s not going to be an easy, one-stop, cruise into the sunset – and we have a potential advantage with the second Medium tyre that none of the other teams have.

“So I think everything is possible – and the weather may play a part – it’s going to be an exciting evening!” predicted Wolff of a race that traditionally features a Safety Car.