Russell says Mercedes have ‘a lot of lap time on the table’ once car is optimised – but no upgrades due for ‘a number of races’
George Russell has doubled down on his belief that Mercedes’ 2022 challenger, the W13, has plenty of potential in it once it’s optimised. But according to the Briton, the car won’t be treated to a major upgrade for “a number of races”, with the W13 set to race in the Australian Grand Prix in a similar spec to how it appeared in Jeddah two weeks ago.
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix saw team mate Lewis Hamilton fail to make it out of Q1 before finishing a lowly P10, while Russell claimed a distant P5 in the race, well down on rivals Red Bull and Ferrari. And Russell said Mercedes now needed to be “disciplined and patient”, with an upgrade for the W13 not due to appear in Australia this weekend.
“We're a long way behind Ferrari and Red Bull,” said Russell. “I think we were probably further behind them in Jeddah [than in Bahrain] and we understand why, but obviously, when I think we had things optimised, or more optimised in Bahrain, we were still half a second, six-tenths behind.
“So we need to obviously close that gap, but there's nothing substantial this weekend that will do that. It's going to take time and I think we just have to be disciplined and patient because we are so far behind and because of the cost cap, we can't afford just to throw things at it and trial and error at race weekends.
“We need to trust the process and bring the upgrades when we have total faith and confidence they will do as we expect. So that will be a number of races before we start seeing that.”
Asked if frustration was starting to creep into the camp of the eight-time constructors’ champions, meanwhile, Russell replied: “More optimism and excitement, to be honest, because we do believe there is a solution, and we do believe there’s a lot of lap time on the table once we do optimise that.
“So we're not here scratching our heads, not understanding why we're off the pace. We absolutely know why we're off the pace, and we know what we need to work on to improve that, and having that knowledge, having that understanding of what the issues are, and having the belief that we can solve it is quite an exciting place to be, because it gives us all something to go at.
“But we do appreciate that our rivals will be continuously improving. And even if we improve, there's no reason why they won't be improving as well. So it's going to take time, for sure… There's [no upgrade this weekend] that's going to really put us in the fight with those guys.
“We've just got to make sure that we maximise our result, which is, as a team, being the third fastest team, making sure none of the midfield cars sneak in between us, and just gathering those points while we can. And this is going to be the case for a number of races to come.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton echoed his team mate’s hope of being closer to the action this weekend in Australia, at an Albert Park track where he has so far claimed every pole position in the turbo-hybrid era.
“I hope so,” Hamilton responded, when asked if he thought Mercedes would be more in the mix with Ferrari and Red Bull this weekend. “I'm really excited to get in the car, naturally. I've been buzzing… this morning, just super eager to get in the car, try this new track, hoping that it feels better here this weekend.
“Ultimately we've not brought any upgrades,” Hamilton added. “The car's the same car generally as the last race, but with every little race, we make a small improvement and I hope that it just feels a bit better here. Plus we have the four DRS zones. I'm just hoping we can race harder here.”
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