Mercedes told George Russell there was “zero expectation” on him and that a top-six result in his first Formula 1 qualifying session for the team would be a good result.

Russell, who is acting as a stand-in for Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time world champion contracted coronavirus and was forced to miss the weekend, missed out on a maiden pole position by just 0.026s as teammate Valtteri Bottas narrowly pipped him in qualifying in Bahrain.

The Briton revealed after the session that Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff and chief strategist James Vowles had insisted that there was no pressure on him to perform given the circumstances of his late call up to race.

Mick Schumacher Graduates To F1 | The Pit-Stop |

“Everyone at Mercedes – Toto, James – said just go out, enjoy it, there’s zero expectations on you,” Russell explained.

“[They said] if Lewis were to jump in a Williams then it would be difficult, so we’re not expecting anything from you and if you qualify first two rows, top five, top six then fine, you can still get a podium from there.”

Speaking to Sky, Wolff said he had told Russell that nothing was expected of him in a bid to put him at ease heading into qualifying.

“I said to him if you end up in the first four, second row of the grid, that’s already a fantastic result,” he added.

“If a McLaren or Ferrari jumps you and you’re fifth, it’s equally great. Nothing more is expected. And I felt that he was walking off with a little more easiness.”

Russell, who has had to adjust to a Mercedes car that he has only just been able to squeeze into, admitted he is anticipating a tough 87-lap race on Sunday.

“Comfort-wise, it’s still not perfect,” Russell admitted after his second day in the W11. “I’m very bruised and sore.

“It’s going to be quite a long, fatiguing race tomorrow if you’re not comfortable in the car. I had ice on my shoulders last night to reduce some swelling, and my knees and toes. But when the car’s so fast you forget about all the pain.”