George Russell, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

Russell sets new benchmark on softs after five red flags on Friday morning

2022 F1 season

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George Russell finished a disrupted final morning session of testing quickest for Mercedes, while a fire ended Alpine’s running after 12 laps.

Russell set the quickest time of the three-day test so far with a 1’19.223 with the use of the C5 Pirelli tyres, the softest compounds available and covered another race distance of 66 laps. Max Verstappen set a best time just over half a second slower than Russell’s best in the Red Bull RB18.

It was a morning session disrupted on multiple occasions by red flags, including an early stoppage when Fernando Alonso came to a halt with a smoking Alpine 522 after 12 laps. The team confirmed it had suffered a hydraulic leak that had caused a fire in the car, which would end their running for the day and, therefore, the test itself.

Pierre Gasly brought out a second red flag when he spun his AlphaTauri AT03 at turn five, ending his session early with just over an hour to go. He ended the morning ninth in the timings after recording 40 laps.

Guanyu Zhou had a difficult session in the Alfa Romeo, spinning into the gravel to bring out the red flags. After his car was recovered, the rookie was able to rejoin the track but immediately stopped out on the circuit, stopping proceedings once again.

With less than ten minutes remaining the track was red flagged for a fifth and final time when Sebastian Vettel stopped on-track, causing an early end to the morning’s running. He would end the session fifth fastest of all in the Aston Martin after covering 48 laps of the circuit.

Nikita Mazepin drove only nine laps in the VF-22 which had been hastily stripped of all Russian colours and Uralkali branding. A suspected leak left the car in the garage for most of the morning. Mazepin is due to hand over the car to team mate Mick Schumacher for the afternoon running.

2022 pre-season testing day three morning times:

Pos.Car numberDriverTeamModelBest timeGapLaps
163George RussellMercedesW131’19.23366
21Max VerstappenRed BullRB181’19.7560.52359
35Sebastian VettelAston MartinAMR221’19.8240.59148
416Charles LeclercFerrariF1-751’19.8310.59844
56Nicholas LatifiWilliamsFW441’20.6991.4665
64Lando NorrisMcLarenMCL361’20.8271.59452
714Fernando AlonsoAlpineA5221’21.2422.00912
824Guanyu ZhouAlfa RomeoC421’21.9392.70641
910Pierre GaslyAlphaTauriAT031’22.4693.23640
1023Alexander AlbonWilliamsFW441’22.6523.41921
119Nikita MazepinHaasVF-221’26.2296.9969

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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22 comments on “Russell sets new benchmark on softs after five red flags on Friday morning”

  1. Remind me what George was quoted as saying yesterday????

    1. Mercedes Marketing Media Misinformation Machine working like magic

    2. @David That Ferrari & Mclaren are ahead, LOL.

    3. I’d say this actually backs up what he was saying. From reports track side he was giving it plenty on this lap and it was part of a very short run (possibly low fuel to see how bad things are at Mercedes?) To only be 0.2 faster than the McLaren/Ferrari on the softest C5 tyres which should be more than a second quicker really isn’t impressive. To me it looks like Mercedes took the last chance to do a qualifying sim to see just where they are. I’ll wait for the speed trap figures to confirm, but these are really worrying signs from Mercedes.

      1. Haha third day of testing everybody. If you see previous years of Mercedes performance in testing, I would have started every year “worried”.
        I believe they will be up there.. don’t read too much on testing times.

        1. Good point, I think MB test plans always include turned down engines and expressing worries about how fast everyone else is. Then suddenly on race day they are the star of the class.

    4. “It’s hard to quantify who’s ahead at the moment, for sure,” he said. “We seem to be up the pointy end of the times.”

  2. That’s a glimpse of pace from the Mercs. George Russell’s time is particularly interesting, because his top speeds through each sector were pretty low.
    Here’s a comparison between Russell’s and Vettel’s times today and Leclerc’s from yesterday:
    RUS – S1: 22.4, 277 kph; S2: 29.5, 298 kph; S3: 27.1, 277 kph (C5 tyre)
    VET – S1: 22.5, 278 kph; S2: 29.9 300 kph; S3: 27.4, 277 kph (C4 tyre)
    LEC – S1: 22.4, 285 kph; S2: 29.8, 299 kph; S3: 27.2, 283 kph (C3 tyre)

    Seems like Leclerc was running a higher engine mode yesterday than Russell and Vettel did today, but had possibly a higher fuel load (the Ferrari set his time on lap 2 of a 15-lap run, if I’m not mistaken).

  3. Matija Majdanac
    25th February 2022, 13:21

    Why is anyone bothering extracting some kind of conclusion out of these lap times?? There is so much that we dont know (engine mode, fuel,aero adjustments, approach to testing in general…)

    1. You forget the tyres Russel did that time on the C5 while Max did it on the C3 and there were also some C4 so that list you can drop:
      So this is the real list:
      1. Russell (Mercedes) 1m19.233s, C5, 66 laps
      2. Verstappen (Red Bull) 1m19.756s, C3, 59 laps
      3. Vettel (Aston Martin) 1m19.824s, C4, 48 laps
      4. Leclerc (Ferrari) 1m19.831s, C3, 44 laps
      5. Latifi (Williams) 1m20.699s, C4, 13 laps
      6. Norris (McLaren) 1m20.827s, C3, 52 laps
      7. Alonso (Alpine) 1m21.242s, C3, 12 laps
      8. Zhou (Alfa Romeo) 1m21.939s, C3, 41 laps
      9. Gasly (AlphaTauri) 1m22.469s, C2, 40 laps
      10. Albon (Williams) 1m22.652s, C2, 21 laps
      11. Mazepin (Haas) 1m26.229s, C3, 9 laps

      So there is not much info to go on you have to wait on the real tests

  4. Ferrari is at the bottom of the top 10.

  5. over the years of watching pre season tests, I learned that the only useful info, i.e., with some sort of predictive value, is to notice if there’s a team that is consistently in the same area of the laptimes board. say, top 3 or lowest 3. this works only one way though: it doesn’t imply that a team putting random laptimes over the testing days won’t dominate the season. but Ferrari, which is consistently in the top positions, is going to start the season with podiums, according to how this trend usually goes

    1. @alfa145 I hear what you are saying and I don’t entirely disagree, however, we haven’t had such a drastic change in the cars for decades, so to me this type of 3 day test is very much just orientation for now. The next test, sure, your theory could work. I just think that for now RBR for example have not shown their hand and have mainly just run on the harder tires. I do take your point about Ferrari looking right now like they will be starting with podiums, however, they won’t if there’s at least one Mercedes, one RBR, and one Mac in the way, which it also looks right now like could be the case. They might, once racing in anger be fighting for 4ths and 5ths on average with therefore the occasional podium a very strong possibility but not necessarily as a consistent finishing spot.

      We just don’t know. Oh yeah, and the cars they’re driving now aren’t the final product either, so we’re being told convincingly. Ferrari and Mac could yet get well surpassed by Mercedes and RBR, or Ferrari and Mac could make a jump in performance with whatever they bring to their car next. I’d just add too, what do we think of where the Ferrari pu is vs. the rest, and as well what do we think of a customer to Mercedes getting regular podiums vs the factory based team? To me, technically both LH and GR should on average be ahead of any other Mercedes powered cars. So if Ferrari can be better than Mercedes for example, they to me should certainly then be better than Mac.

      We’ll only know when we know, lol.

    2. @alfa145 – The main thing for me is the number of laps they do. If they’re banging in lap after lap, it shows that they’re relatively happy and are looking to collect loads of data. If they are doing a small number of laps, it suggests they are having issues.

      If, for example, your car is porpoising badly, that will mean most of the data you are picking up will be fairly useless so you’ll have to do short runs working on eliminating the problem.

  6. It’s all a guessing game until Bahrain Q1 but what I heard is that they might be able to do 1.17 so that time is over a 1s slower what they possibly could drive.

    1. Even if mercedes were behind in q1 I wouldn’t trust they really are until the first run of q3, that’s the moment where sandbagging makes no sense any more.

      At least IF mercedes is still on top, we’ll see what russell can do against a proven benchmark.

    2. And absolutely, lap times are still far from their potential.

  7. GR quote: “It’s hard to quantify who’s ahead at the moment, for sure,” he said. “We seem to be up the pointy end of the times.” So, typical Mercedes honesty from George there. (note: this is not sarcasm)
    IMHO lap times mean nearly nothing yet. Looks like all the teams have issues with the ground effect aero instabilities causing “porpoising” (BTW did you see Craig Slater “demonstrating” that on Sky Sports? Priceless).
    Seems to me all the teams have a lot to sort out, I expect a lot of development far into the season.

  8. Come on Max, say it: “Man, these Mercedes guys are quick. I’m sure that car means they’ll gain at least 6-7 tenths on the straights”.

  9. Why are Haas so slow? I thought they sacrificed 3 seasons for this year?

  10. Lack of talent within the team…. You could give me 10 years to design a car and it wouldn’t be competitive against a car Newey designed in 30 minutes.

  11. Top tip for everyone.

    We’ve seen this movie a hundred times before.

    ‘Oh Ferrari look quicker than us’- Hamilton fastest next session.
    ‘We have problems to look into’- Mercedes dominate the entire weekend.
    ‘Red bull are just faster than us’- Mercedes on pole by half a second.
    ‘Bono my tyres are dead’- Hamilton pumps in an immediate fastest lap and doesn’t need to pit again.
    ‘McLaren look like they are in the mix’- Lapped by both Mercedes in the race.

    Any time a Mercedes driver or Toto comes out and says they have an issue, or another team looks quicker, get right onto a betting site and stick a few quid on Hamilton being on pole. Sick the winnings in a jar, treat yourself at the end of the season.

    Any time they are genuinely in difficulty, you don’t hear from them. They only ever come out with ‘issues’ when they are confident all is well and they have plenty in hand to pull the ‘heroic effort’ card out the bag to make it sound like it wasn’t easy.

    Thank me later.

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