The start of the season was certainly not what George Russell and Mercedes hoped for after the much work done during the winter break, in which the team had chosen to continue along the same lines as in 2022 in terms of design.
A choice that didn’t turn out to be correct, partly because, as explained by the British driver, the team was perhaps too conservative during the development of the single-seater for fear of porpoising reoccurring, partly because in any case it did not give the effects hoped for despite the fact that the designers were able to reach the set targets.
For this reason, already at the end of qualifying in Bahrain, Toto Wolff hadn’t held back, suggesting that the time had come for a change of concept on which the Stella technicians have already started working over the last few weeks.
Changes that Russell has already begun testing in the simulator, suggesting that in terms of lap time the gains of the last three weeks have been higher than those found during the interior: “Yes, we are working hard on these updates. We have to make sure they work as we expect, I think we have made more progress (in terms of gaining lap times) in the last three weeks than over the winter developing in the wrong direction. But now we are in the right direction”.
Nonetheless, the Mercedes driver wants to keep expectations rightly low, aware that there is always the risk of colliding again with a bitter reality, also thanks to the large advantage Red Bull can count on: “I think at the moment we need to manage expectations, focus on ourselves and updates. In winter we all thought that the work done in that phase was correct because it was an evolution of what we had done last year, where we had made big steps forward, also winning races”.
“It surprised us to see the lack of performance when we went out on track in Bahrain and that’s why we were quick to change our project. I won’t say we’re incredibly optimistic, but I can say we’re making improvements, but we know Red Bull has a one-second lead at the moment.”
George Russell, Mercedes-AMG
Photo by: Jake Grant / Motorsport Images
For this weekend in Australia, expectations are not particularly different from previous rounds, with Russell hoping to be able to battle with Ferrari and Aston Martin, although the latter proved superior in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
“I think if we could get another fourth or fifth position, maybe fighting for the podium, we would go beyond the potential of the car. The Aston will be very strong here, they are the quickest in the medium speed corners and there are a lot of them here in Melbourne. If we can fight with Aston and Ferrari it will be a good weekend.”
Going back to the Jeddah round, Russell described it as one of his best weekends ever since he joined the German team, maximizing the car’s potential also in terms of results.
George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19
Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images
“I think Saudi Arabia was one of my strongest weekends ever with Mercedes, both in qualifying and in the race. I think we maximized what we could get, the Ferraris were probably a little quicker, there was Stroll who clearly had a problem but he was behind us so it was a good result,” explained the Briton.
A result also due to the rather different set-up choices from those of teammate Lewis Hamilton. The seven-times world champion had hinted that, with a car with clear limits, Russell had been a bit lucky in Saudi Arabia, but Russell rather wanted to underline the excellent work of the engineers both in terms of preparation and work during the night between Friday and Saturday.
“I think it depends on the preparation before the weekend and the changes we made during the night, they were in the right direction and they were better than the set-up that Lewis chose. So, simply different preferences, I was happy with the path chosen and the work of the engineers”.
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