A tale of two Mercedes drivers: Hamilton and Russell’s contrasting confidence at Zandvoort

George Russell trails Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by 49 points in the F1 drivers' championship ahead of the 2023 Dutch GP

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There’s a sharp difference between Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell‘s confidence in the W14 at the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix.

Russell admitted he’s less confident in his Mercedes now than at the start of the 2023 Formula 1 season, as he averaged nine places behind Lewis Hamilton on Friday free practice.

Meanwhile, Hamilton was buzzing to get back in the W14 as he returns from the summer break just one point behind third-placed Fernando Alonso in the drivers’ championship.

“I’m great, I woke up this morning so excited to get in the car,” Hamilton told the media on Friday evening. “FP1 was actually a really good session for us, the car’s been good from the get-go, it’s great work from everyone at the factory.

“We made some changes from FP1 to FP2, it wasn’t as good, but it’s good data to have so we’ve got some work to do tonight to see if we can turn it around.

“But we’re there or thereabouts, not as quick as the Red Bulls and obviously the McLarens are quick.”

Russell: It’s like the start of a second championship

George Russell looks on at the British GP | Mercedes / Stephen Reuss

For Russell, it’s been a different story. Once Mercedes‘ 2022 shortcomings were revealed, Russell had pretty much the best season imaginable, picking up the team’s only grand prix victory, pole position and sprint win while finishing 35 points ahead of Hamilton.

Despite Hamilton sacrificing some short-term results to gather data that helped the team’s long-term development later down the line, Russell had still performed as well as could’ve been expected and looked set for another tantalising intra-team battle in 2023.

But that’s not how it’s panned out. Russell‘s yet to pick up a podium and sits almost 50 points behind Hamilton at the summer break having struggled to even finish in the top five consistently.

Russell‘s struggled to match Hamilton and hasn’t looked as comfortable in the W14 – a trend that looks set to continue based on the evidence of Friday practice at Zandvoort.

In FP1 Hamilton managed a very competitive third place while Russell finished outside the top 10, and slipped even further behind in FP2.

“I think last year things just swung my way quite nicely and you just get into a rhythm, I had the confidence and you just kept on going week after week,” Russell said.

“Whereas this year, I never like to say luck but we’ve always been probably on the slightly wrong side of things and then you go into a bit of a downward spiral and it just snowballs from there, you maybe make some irrational decisions.

“So yeah, for sure this season has not been smooth at all. I probably have less confidence when the car now than I had at the start of the season.

“But the break’s been good just to start from zero again, it’s like a second championship except we’re starting 50 points ahead of our rivals and we’re trying to extend that gap even further.”

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