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Russell’s first impression of the W15: “nicer to drive than last year’s car”

Day one of testing saw Verstappen and Red Bull on top again, but Russell had positive comments about his team's progress

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After the first day of testing, George Russell says the Mercedes already feels nicer than last year’s car.

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George Russell in the Paddock during day one of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit (Image Credit: Mark Thompson – Getty Images)

One of just two drivers to get a full day of testing in on day one, Russell set the sixth fastest time in the morning session and the 12th fastest time in the afternoon session.

After a tough couple of years following a record-breaking championship run, Mercedes is looking to get back on track. Max Verstappen and Red Bull were (unsurprisingly) fastest and are still looking like the pairing to beat, but if Mercedes can make the step up that they’ve been trying to make for the past two years, they could make a run for the title.

Of course, it’s not likely that anyone will be able to catch up to the Red Bulls, at least not before the regulation changes in 2026. But while the Mercedes W15 didn’t show anything particularly stunning yesterday, Russell felt an improvement from 2023.

Feeling better than last year

Testing is much more for teams to learn about how their cars run than to see how fast they are. Getting a feel for the car is more important for a driver than anything else. Russell’s first impression of the W15 was already that it feels better than last year’s car.

“It was great to drive the W15 for the first time in anger today,” Russell commented at the end of the day. “From hitting the ground, it felt like we had a good foundation to start from. We completed lots of laps and have plenty of data to go through tonight. We ended the day in a reasonably good spot, and we can build from here over the next two days.

“We will be focused on maximizing mileage for learning rather than chasing an optimum sweet spot with the car. Overall, the W15 does feel nicer to drive than last year’s car. We know that it’s not about the feeling, but the speed. Nevertheless, today was about learning and not about chasing performance.

“We’re focused on ourselves at this test, and it will only be next week where we see where we stack up against the others. It was a positive first day and I’m looking forward to being back in the car on Friday.”

Today Lewis Hamilton will get his turn driving the W15 on the second day of pre-season testing ahead of the start of the 2024 season.

Feature Image Credit: Mercedes AMG F1

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