George Russell claims that he was relieved to wound up fifth for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix after admitting that being “off the pace” left him fearing a Q2 exit.

Having eclipsed Lewis Hamilton in four of the last five qualifying sessions, Russell consistently lagged behind his Mercedes team-mate throughout Friday in Austin.

Hamilton, a five-time winner at the Circuit of the Americas, ended up third on the grid for Sunday’s grand prix, two places and two-tenths clear of Russell in the sister car.

While Russell echoed Hamilton’s view that Mercedes’ latest floor revision provided a positive step, the 25-year-old asserts that he struggled during the first day of running.

Russell contends that he was “pretty pleased” to even be in contention in the final top 10 shootout, after being concerned that he would even struggle to reach Q3.

“For me, it’s been a really challenging day,” Russell reflected. “I’ve been off the pace, I don’t really know why.

“It’s been feeling quite good, the update, we can feel the improvements. But it’s been a bit of a strange day for me, so I’m actually pretty pleased with P5, because at some points it was looking likely that we may not even have got through to Q3.”

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 20.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Qualifying Day

Despite the Sprint format ensuring that minimal changes can be made to his W14, Russell is optimistic that he can rebound ahead of the remainder of the weekend.

“I’ll take those positives, try and work on it tonight, always the Saturday Sprint qualis tend to go better for us than they do on the Friday evenings, bar Qatar, and we’ll go from there,” he added.

Russell believes lining up fifth on Sunday provides opportunities, even though he suspects an extra position was possible without an error at Turn 1 on his best run.

“To be honest, I’ll take it on my shoulders of just being off the pace today and struggling to understand why,” he explained.

“But Q3 was a reasonable lap, I made a bit of a mistake at Turn 1, probably cost me one more position on the grid, but P5 is a great place to start on Sunday when it was looking likely at points we could have been much further down the order; I’m pretty satisfied.”

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