If the Bahrain GP qualifying was anything to go by, Mercedes may have made a blunder in bringing in George Russell to replace Valtteri Bottas
There were plenty of shocks and surprises in the first qualifying session of the 2022 F1 season. With the 10 teams set to begin another thrilling campaign, a fascinating year awaits.
However, Mercedes had a rather underwhelming qualifying session in Bahrain. The Silver Arrows were nowhere near the top as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc grabbed pole position for Sunday’s Bahrain GP race.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took P2 while Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari took up P3. Sergio Perez managed to get his Red Bull to P4 which was then followed by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. However, that arguably wasn’t the biggest disappointment for Mercedes on Saturday.
Valtteri Bottas, who parted ways with Mercedes in the winter, took P6 on the grid on his Alfa Romeo debut. And the man who replaced the Finn at Mercedes, George Russell, found himself languishing in 9th.
Geroge Russell gets outqualified by Valtteri Bottas
Russell was quicker than Hamilton in Q1 but ‘Mr Saturday’ couldn’t match his teammate in Q2 and then had a nightmare outing in Q3. Fans on social media were quick to point out that the man he replaced at Mercedes also finished three places ahead of him on the grid.
Some claimed that the reigning Constructors’ champions made a grave mistake in replacing Bottas with Russell. Others simply put it down to nerves for the young Englishman, who may have tried something too fancy on the night.
Bottas helped Mercedes win five Constructors’ championships along with Hamilton. He also played second fiddle to the Briton on several occasions. However, with Russell claiming that he aspires to be a world champion with Mercedes, he hasn’t had the best of starts to life at his new team.
Russell will also start behind Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Apline’s Fernando Alonso. If he is to prove a point for his new team, he may need to overtake some veterans, who are known to defend mightily.
It’s still too early to judge whether replacing Bottas with Russell was the right decision by Mercedes. Especially as Mercedes still had issues with porpoising and handling until a few days ago. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old received a harsh reality check as a Mercedes driver.
Russell will compete in his second race as a Mercedes driver on Sunday. His first was at the same venue in 2020 and pulled off a few brilliant moves, ironically against Valtteri Bottas, to take the lead. However, a mix-up by the Mercedes pit crew saw him finish in 15th.
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