Team principal Toto Wolff has explained the narrow operating window of the 2023 Mercedes car is why George Russell has lost form since the Monaco Grand Prix.
The Briton impressed the Silver Arrows in 2022, taking two pole positions and a maiden Formula 1 win at the Brazilian GP on his way to finishing the season 35 points ahead of Lewis Hamilton.
However, in 2023 the story has been different as Hamilton leads their closely-fought qualifying head-to-head 7-5, and dominates their race head-to-head 9-3.
“You can fall out of this very quickly and lose confidence as a result,” Wolff said to media. “But if you’re in that ‘sweet spot corridor’ – although it has to be said that this car doesn’t have a sweet spot – the driver can better understand what it’s going to do next. I think that makes a big difference this year.”
The swing of form happened after Mercedes debuted an alternative W14 concept at the Monaco GP, and since then Hamilton leads their head-to-head 6-1 in both qualifying and races.
The contrasting performances are further highlighted by Hamilton scoring four podiums to Russell’s solitary one in Spain and by taking pole position at the Hungarian GP whilst Russell started 18th.
It appears Hamilton can handle the limitations of the car better than his teammate, but technical director James Allison revealed that Mercedes are working to improve the car’s predictability.
“We are trying to get the car to give the drivers more confidence on turn-in. It feels too reactive and then when they get to the apex of the corner, they have the opposite problem,” Allison said.
“That’s when you want the front to bite and it doesn’t. It’s only when you get to the apex that it’s unstable. It’s unstable first when you turn in, but then irritatingly blunt in the middle of the corner. We want it the other way round, that’s what we’re working on.”
Russell receives backing
Russell has been backed by his team, who are sympathetic to his struggles with the challenging W14, with Andrew Shovlin praising Briton’s talent and technical mind, stating that he will get through this problem and allow his talent to shine again.
“I have no doubt that he will be part of great successes for the team in the future,” Shovlin added.
“George is a highly professional driver who works very hard, and he’s one of those people who you say will win a world championship at some point – provided we can give him the car for it.”
Where is the next F1 2023 race?
F1 will return from its summer break with the 2023 Dutch Grand Prix from Zandvoort on August 25-27, where championship leader Max Verstappen will be racing on home soil.