Mercedes apologised to George Russell on Saturday after a qualifying error left last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix pole-sitter languishing 18th on the Formula One grid.
Russell was a casualty of a new format aimed at reducing the number of tyres transported to races, with drivers having to use hard compounds in the first phase, mediums in the second and then softs for the top 10.
The Briton was trying to create a space in a queue of cars for a final flying lap in the first phase but ended up losing out when rivals went past him at the final corner.
Team mate Lewis Hamilton qualified on pole position, the seven times world champion’s first since 2021.
“We made a mistake with George. We should have put him in a much better position on track and we’ve apologised to him for that,” said team boss Toto Wolff.
“There’s a gentleman’s agreement that you don’t overtake one another as time is running out. He had a number of cars move ahead of him though and that obviously screwed up his last lap.”
Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the team had “let George down with how we handled his session”.
“It wasn’t good enough and we’ll review and see how we can improve,” said Shovlin. “It’s obviously very disappointing when we see the promise of the car and that he didn’t get the opportunity to get a clean run in.”
Russell said the car had felt great, but he was three tenths down before he even got to turn one.
“Really disappointed because we didn’t need to take so many risks...the car was more than quick enough to get through to Q2 or Q3,” he added.
Russell said the so-called ‘gentleman’s agreement’ was not an issue.
“You’ve all got to think about yourself at one point. There’s just so many cars on track. I understand why some cars did it,” he said. “You had (Alfa Romeo’s) Valtteri (Bottas) on a lap, got blocked by six cars. But we shouldn’t have been there in the first place.
“If you don’t do things right you’ll get punished and we got punished for sure.”
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