Mercedes impressed by how Russell handled pressure
Mercedes head of trackside engineering Andrew Shovlin has cited the way George Russell handled pressure as one of the outstanding aspects of the team newcomer's Bahrain GP weekend.
Russell only had Wednesday and Thursday to prepare before driving Lewis Hamilton's car in Friday practice on Sakhir's outer circuit.
He topped both sessions, qualified second to team mate Valtteri Bottas, and then lost victory in the race after a pitstop mix-up and subsequent puncture.
Shovlin said that the team knew that Russell would be fast, but was impressed by the way he attacked when a high profile mistake would have been costly.
"Probably the thing that was least surprising was his speed in qualifying," said Shovlin. "Because if you look at what he'd been doing in the Williams, clearly he knows how to drive a car quickly. And he knows how to get the most out of it.
"So that was not a complete shock to me, it was kind of what we were hoping to see, and what we were pleased that we did see.
"How he handled the pressure, that's the harder thing to really predict, how he's going to get on. But that was very impressive, actually, he really attacked the session.
"The risk – if this is one opportunity to show what you can do in a fast car – is it's so easy to get it wrong. And it's so easy to create lasting impressions.
"But clearly, he wasn't thinking about that for a second. He really attacked the session. He was confident, he was disciplined. He was methodical in how he approached each run.
"At times, we were under pressure with both drivers in the early part of it. And he stayed calm, and that was nice to see. He's clearly a very good racing driver."
Shovlin stressed that the team had tried hard to help Russell adjust to his new environment.
"We were just trying to feed the information to him in a way that wasn't going to overwhelm him," he said.
"We weren't telling him things on Thursday night that he didn't need to know until Sunday morning. So we tried to have a sort of structured approach, as it's quite a difficult thing for the drivers to jump from one team to another, one car to another.
"And he obviously did a good job, and in some ways our car will be easier than the Williams that he normally drives because it's quite a nice handling car, there aren't any major vices, it's got good grip. So in some ways that direction is easier.
"But the fact is the performance envelope of our car is much bigger. And you can brake later, you can get on the throttle sooner, you can be more aggressive with it, and the car will look after you and, and not catch you out as much as some others, and you can carry much more speed into corners. And it's just sort of understanding that.
"And it takes more than one race to really build up a sort of full appreciation of what the car can do. One of the things that he was sort of chipping away at was just understanding how late you can actually brake for Turn 1, and how much speed you can carry into Turn 7 and 8.
"He's done a good job, he's approached that methodically. And importantly, he's done it without going over the limit. Because you go over the limit, and then you can end up with some significant consequences."
Shovlin conceded that fitting Russell into Hamilton's W11 hadn't been easy.
"It was difficult. And it's been made difficult by the fact that we've not had such a tall driver for a very, very long time.
"And every year, as you're looking for what can you squeeze, something here and there, and work on the packaging, and put a bit more performance on the thing, it becomes a less and less comfortable environment for a guy who's quite a bit over six foot tall.
"It's not just physically things being in the way, and not being able to have your normal seating position. Also it's painful, because we can't quite get enough space for him. So he's being pinched, and the seat is not quite perfect.
"And so it's not just that you're cramped, it actually hurts to drive. He was determined to fit. And he was determined to be able to drive it. But it won't be a perfect environment for him."
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