George Russell is hopeful of taking the fight to Charles Leclerc at the start of the Italian Grand Prix but believes achieving victory will be a tall order, hinting that Max Verstappen will be in a “league of his own”.
Russell will join Leclerc at the front of the grid for Sunday’s race at Monza, gaining places due to a series of engine and gearbox penalties for Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton.
READ MORE: Leclerc secures pole position for the 2022 Italian Grand Prix with Russell to join him on the front row
While Sainz and Hamilton fall far behind, Red Bull pair Verstappen and Perez will drop five and 10 places respectively, and Russell doubts he or Leclerc have the pace to fend off the reigning World Champion.
“We knew it was going to be the case that we couldn’t fight Red Bull or Ferrari today, and we just needed to make sure we had a good race car and qualified ahead of midfield,” Russell commented, adding that he and Mercedes “managed our objectives”.
“I’ll do my best to try and get over Charles at first, but Max will be in a league of his own, we probably won’t focus on him too much. I think Charles is where our career is.” Us [also] Let’s see how fast I check [Perez]Lewis and Carlos go through the pack.”
Lewis Hamilton: Starting from the back ‘is going to be tough for sure’ but ‘I love a challenge’
Hamilton is due to start all the way back in 19th position, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda is the only driver behind him, having taken a new power unit after sustaining damage in his collision with Fernando Alonso at the Belgian Grand Prix. .
Nonetheless, the seven-time world champion vowed to accept the challenge ahead, saying: “You always have to try to approach it, regardless of the situation, with the glass half full.”
READ MORE: Leclerc looks for another memorable win at Monza after ‘putting it all together’ for pole position
“I have no idea what we can do tomorrow. It could be, worst case, [being] stuck behind and following everyone throughout the race. The best thing that can happen is that we are in the top 10 and get some points; that has to be the goal.
“I made the mistake that put me in this position of having to get a new engine and I’m going to use the experience to work on my racing trade, it needs work! I’m going to shed some of those damn cobwebs and get it done.” some good overtaking tomorrow if I can.”
Since 2014, Mercedes has achieved at least one podium finish in every Italian Grand Prix except 2020, with its last win at Monza coming from Hamilton in 2018.