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Russell: Mercedes have ‘gone maybe one step too far’

The first race of the 2023 Formula One season is complete and it's highlighted the stronger teams on the grid

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The Bahrain Grand Prix saw Red Bull excel with a 1-2 finish, but according to George Russell, for Mercedes it was a taste of reality. 

Mercedes Russell Hamilton
George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team W14 leads Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR23 Mercedes during the F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain at Bahrain International Circuit on March 05, 2023 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

In 2022, Mercedes were the team that had a considerably poor performance compared to their previous seasons. The Silver Arrows suffered a lot with porpoising and only achieved one race win in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in George Russell.

For Lewis Hamilton, 2022 was his only season where he had not won a race. However, coming into 2023 things were looking more positive.

But in pre-season testing there was a reliability issue as Russell broke down on day two of pre-season testing. This was due to a hydraulic failure.

When the opening round of the season arrived, Mercedes were looking to have a stronger performance than last year. There was no porpoising in sight but Russell and Hamilton only qualified P6 and P7 respectively.

Ahead of the Grand Prix, Toto Wolff, the Team Principal of Mercedes released a statement shown on the Sky Sports F1 broadcast. Wolff said: “I don’t think that this package is going to be competitive eventually.

“We gave it our best go over the winter and now we all just need to regroup, sit down with the engineers, be totally non-dogmatic and ask what is the development direction we want to pursue in order to be able to win races.”

When it came to the Grand Prix, both Hamilton and Russell were involved with battles on the track. Most notably, they battled with Fernando Alonso who achieved a P3 podium finish.

However, looking back on the race, Russell now insists that Mercedes need to regroup and rethink.

A new approach for Mercedes

Russell began the race in P6 but unfortunately went backwards, finishing P7.  The young Brit had a poorer start compared to Hamilton and throughout the race, Russell’s tyres began to degrade faster than his teammates.

Speaking on his race, Russell said:

“Today’s probably back to the reality and we just need to get back to the drawing board and keep on working.”

The Mercedes driver said that having a “fast race car” makes everything “easier, the strategy is better, the tyre management is better race starts are a bit better because you have more grip and downforce.” However, for the Mercedes driver, during the Bahrain Grand Prix, things were not “where [they] needed it to be.”

After the race Russell also talked about the approach Mercedes now need to take. He said “it’s definitely too early to say” but he’s confident the team have “learned a lot in these two weeks.”

However he did admit that they could have been a “little bit too conservative with the design”. He said Mercedes are “missing a little bit too much performance downforce wise”; but Russell did acknowledge that Mercedes “seem to be the team that [now] has the least amount of bouncing.”

He also said that perhaps the team have “gone maybe one step too far” in terms of development. Russell is in his second season with the Mercedes F1 team. He said that everyone will have to “reconvene” after the weekend to work out their next steps.

The next race is in Saudi Arabia and is a street circuit. In 2022, Russell had a P5 finish there and Hamilton had a P10 finish. With last weekend not being the result they wanted, how will the Silver Arrows fare in Saudi Arabia.

Headline Feature Image: GettyImages

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