George Russell has revealed he accidentally engaged the neutral button on his Mercedes Formula 1 car during his qualifying debut for the team at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

Russell, who is acting as stand-in for Lewis Hamilton after the seven-time world champion was ruled out of the weekend following a positive COVID-19 test, was narrowly denied a maiden pole position by Valtteri Bottas having got within 0.026s of the Finn’s best Q3 lap.

The Briton said he has had to “unlearn” and “relearn” parts of his driving skills set after swapping the slowest car on the grid in his Williams for the fastest with Mercedes’ “alien” W11 around Bahrain’s shorter Outer Loop circuit.

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"I guess arguably I probably would've been better off if I'd just came in with an open mind and not raced this circuit - or at least half of this circuit - last week,” Russell said as he reflected on his first qualifying outing for Mercedes.

“Because I spent all last week breaking at 'this point', turning at 'this point at Turn 1' and 'doing this, doing that'. And this car is just completely different.

"Then all the procedures - learning new procedures, learning new buttons. FP1 was a mess - pressing the wrong buttons here and there.

“Even in qualifying, I pressed neutral at one point instead of something else.”

Having raced at Williams for two seasons since making his F1 debut in 2019, Russell admitted the adjustment process had been a challenge given the short turnaround.

"You don't even think about these things and it just naturally happens,” he said.

"[Mercedes has] been trying to modify as much as physically possible just to make things easier for me.

"It's been a lot of work and still takes a bit of time - it takes a couple of races just to understand all of that.”

Adding to the task is the fact Russell’s car does not fit well due to his large 6ft 1inch frame, being five inches taller than Hamilton. Russell is also having to squeeze his size 11 boots into a smaller size in order to operate the pedals.

"Comfort-wise it isn't perfect," he explained. "I'm very bruised and sore. It will be a fatiguing race. I had ice on the shoulders last night to reduce swelling, and my knees and toes [are sore]."