Mercedes split strategies in Q1, sending Russell out on mediums and Hamilton on the softs. But Russell soon swapped to the softs, and that left the duo needing to run on used softs in Q2. Both were in trouble with the clock ticking down, but managed to scrape through to Q3. Once there they just didn’t have the pace to fight for the front rows, although Russell came agonisingly close to Sainz – winding up just 0.001s back on the Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton, 8th, 1:15.504

“The car felt really good on Friday but today, I was struggling to find that same level of grip. It was frustrating and I think the small changes we made going into Qualifying had quite a big impact. George did a great job though and for him to be only four tenths off pole is clearly a good step forward for us. Unfortunately I was just lacking some pace so couldn’t quite match that.

“Tomorrow we are likely looking at trying to make up a few positions. We will do some work tonight to see if we can improve anything but it’s very hard to overtake here so, unless something out of the ordinary happens, we will only be able to make small gains.”

George Russell, 6th, 1:15.234

“I was very happy with my final effort in Q3. It was a really strong lap and overall, it was a good session from my point of view. It is obviously annoying when you are one millisecond behind one of your competitors, but I think that was the maximum we had today. I think P6 is therefore a fair result. It is very difficult to pass here so unfortunately, I’m not forecasting lots of overtakes tomorrow. I hope to be proven wrong though and we can gain some positions.

“The car is feeling much better than it has done in recent races. Of course it is all about lap times, so we just need to keep working away and improving. We’ve seen how others have progressed and that gives us encouragement.”

Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport

“When you look at the gap to the front, and our closest competitors around us, you can see progress. P6 and P8 are not the positions we want to be. We’ve been saying that for a while, but we can see the advantage others have closing. It takes time to do that, so we must be patient and that’s the reality at the moment.

“We know we have developments in the pipeline that will improve the balance of the car. Even though our positions today are not good enough, we are pointing in the right direction. Tomorrow, we will be focused on maximising the package we currently have and aiming to score some decent points.”

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

“We’ve worked hard to try and close the gap to the front over the last few races. Encouragingly, there are signs we’re making progress, but we know we’ve still got a long way to go. Neither driver had two new sets of the Soft tyre left by Q3. This may have cost each a place on tomorrow’s grid when you look at how close the gaps are to the cars ahead. Ultimately though, P6 and P8 are about where our current pace is. It is encouraging that the car’s balance around the lap has been improved this weekend.

“We will now have to wait and see where the pace falls out in the race tomorrow. There did look to be some tyre degradation on Friday, so that should help create some opportunity. It is difficult to overtake here at Imola though so it will likely take some good fortune for us to be challenging for the podium spots.”


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