Mercedes driver George Russell has confessed that he lost confidence in his team after realising that they were using the wrong set-up direction earlier in the season.
What followed was a rough patch for the 25-year-old, but he believes that he has now regained some confidence after seeing the Silver Arrows make some improvement.
Russell has been reasonably solid on race days, but his qualifying form has been poor compared to his teammate Lewis Hamilton as well as his own lofty standards from his debut season at Mercedes.
Last weekend saw Russell qualify P3 for the first time this season, with only Max Verstappen and Lando Norris performing better than him.
Russell has admitted that his confidence has taken a beating this term, a sentiment that has also been echoed by his team principal Toto Wolff.
For Russell, the Dutch GP could be a watershed moment as far as his hopes are concerned for the current season, with his performance in Zandvoort proving to the youngster once again that he has all the skill to prosper at the highest level of motorsport.
“The loss of performance, in my head at least, has maybe been through a loss of confidence, which sort of go hand in hand,” said Russell.
“I definitely took a step back in qualifying performance but if anything, my race pace has been as strong as ever, and one of my strengths this season.
“It’s something I’m really pleased about because the qualifying pace, if anything, is the the most straightforward part. It’s just sort of balls to the wall, drive as fast as you can over one lap.
“But definitely, what I think we’ve concluded, is that we’ve been going in the wrong set-up direction, at least on my side, in the recent few races, and that’s been compromising my confidence and my qualifying performance, and we’ve perhaps put too much emphasis on the race.
“Now that the grid is so compact, in the past if you are one- or two-tenths off in qualifying, it may have been one grid position. Now it’s five or six.
“It’s been a number of these factors that have just hindered me on a Saturday, but that’s why I was so happy with Zandvoort because we changed the approach, put full focus on the qualifying, and I’ve regained my confidence.
“After five laps back in the car, I felt like I’d got my mojo back.”
Russell was subsequently asked if he believes the change in his mentality will be long-term or whether a couple of poor results could deter his mindset.
“With this generation of cars, you’re always looking for that best trade-off,” he said.
“Most cars are at their maximum downforce, really low to the floor, you’ve got to run the car quite stiff and aggressive, which always comes at the expense of the ride and the compliance of the car.
“Vice versa if you want a nice soft car that might give you a bit more driveability over the kerbs, then it’s going to come at the expense of downforce, and we’ve just been chasing one direction, thinking that would pay off, and it hasn’t.
“There are no guarantees we’ve solved it but I think we’ve got a clearer idea how to react,” he added.
“And you know, Formula 1 is such a fluid sport, we’ve gone from Zandvoort, a high-downforce circuit with the three hardest compounds of tyres, and now we’re in Monza on the lowest downforce with the three softest compounds of tyres.
“You’ve got to be quick to adapt, to learn, and so now we’re just approaching things slightly differently.
“We’ve not reinvented the wheel but I feel like we’re on the right path, and that’s the way with the majority of things – if you believe it, then you can achieve it, and right now I believe it, so that’s a good thing.”