Both Mercedes Formula 1 drivers are expecting a tight scrap on Saturday at the Italian Grand Prix, which could make advancing to the final stage of qualifying a challenge for the team.
With just six real braking zones, the high-speed Monza circuit has a habit of throwing up a close battle for positions in qualifying.
The tussle to be best of the rest is becoming ever closer between the top teams outside of Red Bull, and with Williams looking to also contend for positions within the top ten, George Russell acknowledged that Mercedes may not be certain to progress to Q3 tomorrow.
“I think it’s really close as always at the moment between McLaren, Aston Martin, Ferrari and even Williams are getting in the mix, especially on Saturday,” the Briton said.
“So we’re going to have to really nail it, I think, even to get to Q3, it’s going to be a tight battle. If you nail it you could be second row of the grid but if you don’t quite nail it, you could be down in the P8, P10 region.”
Meanwhile, Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton grew frustrated in FP2 as he struggled to find performance in the W14 despite a seemingly comfortable FP1 session earlier in the day.
“I was generally quite happy with the car [after FP1], and then we made changes,” the seven-time champion said.
“And usually when we go into [second practice], I can’t figure out why, but the car seems to be more of a challenge in [second practice]. So we’re just going through the data now and I’m sure it’s something we can rectify overnight.
“We’ve got a thousand things which we can change, so it’s just knowing what the real issues are, whether its mechanical, whether its tyre, whether it’s temperatures or aero balance, we will figure it out tonight.”
Hamilton was equally cautious about his hopes of advancing to the top 10 shootout, stating: “With our current pace I don’t know how easy it’ll be to get into Q3. That’s what we’ll work on overnight.
“And hopefully, this morning we were obviously easily in the top three, so I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed that we can get there.”
This weekend teams are required to adhere to the Alternative Tyre Allocation qualifying configuration for the second time this season.
The revised rule stipulates that the Hard tyre must be used in Q1, the Medium for Q2 and the Soft for Q3, with the format first trialled at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“I think we look more competitive on the Hard and Medium than we do on the Soft,” Russell responded when asked if the rule would hamper Mercedes.
“So, we’ll need to try and find something to get us up the order. When we put the Softs on, it wasn’t quite as fast as we had hoped which generally puts it down to the tyre and not getting it in the sweet spot. So, something to learn from that.”