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Formula 1 Brazilian GP

Russell: Mercedes needs to understand “black magic” of F1 tyres

George Russell has said Mercedes must understand the “black magic” of Pirelli’s current Formula 1 tyres after they once again dictated the team’s performance in Brazil.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Russell qualified fourth for Saturday’s sprint at Interlagos, and after a good first lap got up to second, having passed Sergio Perez and the Lando Norris.

But he couldn’t maintain that form and lost out to both drivers as he dropped back to fourth, eventually finishing over 25 seconds shy of sprint winner Max Verstappen.

Russell said the drop-off in performance had not been anticipated by the team: “Yeah, really unexpected. We didn't expect to be the fastest, we thought we'd be a couple of tenths behind Max. Maybe similar pace to Lando.

“But clearly, we got something wrong today. As always, [it was] down to tyres, the tyres just dropped off, [it is the] story of everybody's season. And we need to rectify it, because that was a disappointment.

“We know how sensitive the tyres are to the conditions. So it's going to be four or five degrees colder tomorrow, that might transform everything. So not all is lost yet. I guess everybody in the paddock wished they understood it, but it's a bit of black magic.”

Russell was frustrated that he wasn’t able to make the most of his strong first lap, especially his bold move for second on Norris.

“It was a good start,” he said. “I sort of had that Turn 10 lined up as an overtaking opportunity, we were fast in Turn 8-9. And I felt that was my chance, so glad to make that stick. Just a shame we went backwards.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

“We're the slowest on the straight at the moment, so we're very vulnerable if anybody gets DRS behind us. We knew that was going to be the case.

“But that wasn't the reason for our lack of pace. If anything, being on a bit more downforce than everybody else, we were expecting to have less tyre deg. So we really need to understand what went wrong.”

Russell also questioned the two-pace grid penalty he received for impeding at the pit exit in qualifying for Sunday’s main race, which dropped him from sixth to eighth on the grid.

“It was a bit frustrating when the stewards said to me that I was basically unfortunate that Pierre [Gasly] accelerated and came up right behind me, and that I did nothing different to any of the other drivers who stayed sort of middle of the track.

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“It’s difficult with all of the screws and bolts around the track, I didn't really want to be right on the left-hand side. And yeah, I was just quite surprised how black and white they took it.

“We're adding a lot of new rules, and every time we add a new rule, it always has an unforeseen consequence.

“I appreciate why we're doing it. But definitely thought it was a bit harsh considering it was a very first time that that rule was implemented. But we've just got to suck it up and move on.”

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