F1

George Russell confused by Mercedes pace in Miami after beating Lewis Hamilton in practice

F1 preview: A lap of the Miami Grand Prix

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George Russell has admitted that he is not sure why Mercedes have picked up their pace at the Miami Grand Prix after struggling to keep up with the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull during the early stages of this season. Russell topped Friday’s second practice session ahead of fourth-placed Lewis Hamilton in a surprise result for the Silver Arrows, who will be looking to challenge for the podium positions in Florida when this weekend’s race gets underway on Sunday evening.

Mercedes have endured a lacklustre start to the new season by their own high standards but have introduced a number of aerodynamic upgrades in an attempt to improve their fortunes ahead of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, which is taking place on a temporary circuit around the Hard Rock Stadium. It seems as though Mercedes could be in for a productive weekend if they manage to maintain their current pace, with Russell having been left confused by his team’s sudden improvements in FP1 and FP2 on Friday.

“We don’t really understand it to be honest, why we sort of hit the ground running,” Russell told the official F1 website.

“We always knew ahead of this weekend that the conditions should suit us better, because we’ve been struggling a lot with tyre warm-up, even in Bahrain when the track was really rough. But this is the first real hot race of the season, so for sure that’s played a big factor, but it’s only Friday, not getting too carried away.

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“I’m not too sure [on the upgrades] to be honest because when I got out of FP1, I was straight into the stewards’ office because of the pit lane incident with [Esteban] Ocon and then straight into FP2. I was just working with my engineers to maximise my set-up and leaving it to the boffins to work out if this was the direction to go.

“But I think it’s definitely been a really productive day for us and probably the most productive Friday we’ve had.”

Although Mercedes enjoyed a strong collective showing in each of Friday’s practice sessions, they are yet to solve the porpoising issue that has plagued their efforts since the start of pre-season testing. The problem forced Russell and Hamilton to lift on the straights in qualifying at last month’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix and still has the potential to limit their speed over the course of this weekend’s event in Miami.

However, it seems as though Mercedes could at least be represented on the podium if they manage to keep up with their Constructors’ Championship rivals when the five red lights go out on Sunday. Russell was not the only Mercedes driver to have been left baffled by his team’s newly-found pace on Friday, with Hamilton also failing to explain the reasons behind their quick-fire improvements when quizzed on the matter.

“It feels similar to me, to be honest,” said Hamilton. “We definitely still have a balance issue, we haven’t cured it, but looking at the times it seems we have improved, so I’m not quite sure where that is.

“I’m still struggling with the car. George looked great out there, but we’re trying different things so I guess we’ll converge.”

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