By Robert Haile
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team have qualified in sixth and seventh for the Bahrain Grand Prix after the team makes changes to the W14 after Free Practice on Friday.
George Russell will start in sixth on the third row with Lewis Hamilton is seventh on the fourth row with hardly anything between the two drivers.
The new look Silver Arrows made it through to the top ten shoot out with Russell in the top three in qualifying sessions 1 (Q1) and 2 (Q2) before being beaten by both Red Bull and Ferrari drivers and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
After the session Russell had this to say: “Today was a lot better than we expected, particularly after yesterday. We had a tough Friday; we expected to add a little bit of performance overnight, but we exceeded expectations.
“The changes we made we thought we might find a tenth, but we found close to five or six tenths, so we need to fully understand why that was.
“It’s positive news but after FP3, we just focused on maximising performance. The car is feeling nice to drive so we are in a much better starting place than we were with the W13.
“We can now focus on adding global performance rather than problem solving. Tomorrow, we are in a good place to fight for third.
“Qualifying three tenths behind Ferrari when they have probably been the fastest car on single lap pace is positive. Fernando (Alonso) is probably more of a dark horse than Ferrari.”
Hamilton struggled in Q1 making it through in thirteenth before comfortably following his teammate in finishing seventh.
The seven time world champion, Hamilton said: “I thought today may be worse than it ended up being. We did some great work overnight and the car felt much better in FP3. Overall, Qualifying was OK.
“I thought we might struggle to get into Q3 yesterday, but we didn’t. We were in a fight. We don’t know if we have the same race pace that we showed last year but I’m hoping we can be in the fight amongst the group behind Red Bull.
“It’s really all going to depend on what our long-run pace is like. I am genuinely happy for Aston Martin. It’s amazing to see their progress and the steps that they have taken.
“I am happy for Fernando (Alonso) as he’s been here way longer than me so it’s good to have him back in the mix. I’m sure we will have some good races.”
Mercedes will be looking to strike back after losing the Drivers Championship in 2021 and then the Constructors Championship in 2022.
The first race of 2023 at the Bahrain International Circuit starts 3:00pm (15:00) on Sunday March 5.