George Russell expects a tight battle with Ferrari at the season-ending 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, predicting the advantage will swing between the teams from Saturday to Sunday in the race for second place in the constructors’ championship.
Mercedes enter the weekend just four points ahead of Ferrari after a nightmare two races in Sao Paulo and Las Vegas, but still believe they can hold onto the runner-up spot.
Since Charles Leclerc crashed out on the formation lap at Interlagos, Ferrari have outscored their rivals 34-14 despite that misfortune and Carlos Sainz‘s unfair penalty after his car was damaged by a fault in the Las Vegas Strip Circuit.
“They were definitely pretty competitive here last year,” Russell told the press. “But we’ve been surprised a lot this season of which teams are faster which races and vice versa so we’re going in with an open mind.
“I think they’ll slightly have the upper hand in Qualifying as they’ve tended to do this season, but I think it’d be a different story come Sunday and we’ll have a good race.”
Russell relishing Ferrari battle
After Las Vegas, team principal Toto Wolff said he wasn’t too interested in battling for second or third, in stark contrast to Sainz who was fuming with Mercedes after events on The Strip Circuit – and off it.
Mercedes recorded arguably their two worst weekends of the season to round out a deeply disappointing 2023. However, they also threw away a second-place at the United States GP when Lewis Hamilton was disqualified for excessive floor wear and Russell dropped a haul of points in Las Vegas by a clumsy collision with Max Verstappen.
That’s not even the worst Mercedes crash of the past few races through, as Hamilton cost the team dearly when he hit Russell at the start of the Qatar GP with the team starting second and third.
“We’re excited for the challenge ahead, it’s going to be a close fight with Ferrari,” Russell added. “They’re obviously coming off the back of a strong race but definitely I’d prefer to be in the position we are than in their shoes.
“And I think we just need to go out there and focus on ourselves, try and be as fast as possible and if we do so, we’ll finish ahead.”