George Russell admitted Mercedes made an error with their tyres and had been unable to course correct thanks to the sprint format at the 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix as they recorded their worst weekend of the season.
Lewis Hamilton finished eighth in the grand prix unable to live with even Pierre Gasly‘s pace, while Russell was running out of the points managing an engine temperature issue that ultimately caused him to retire.
The only saving grace for Mercedes was Charles Leclerc‘s crash on the formation lap means Ferrari only closed by two points in the constructors’ championship, with the margin for second now at 20 points.
“It’s a mind-boggling weekend to understand, we had relatively high expectations coming into this weekend, and just absolutely no pace at all,” Russell told the press.
“Same car as the last five races so clearly got something wrong with the tyres and in the sprint race weekend when you get it wrong you can’t make amends on those issues.
“It’s so many question marks. It’s the exact same race car as what we’ve had since Austin, where the car’s been capable of podiums every race.
“Even before then, Singapore and Qatar we were capable of podiums. This is clearly a substantial one-off event but we need to understand what we got wrong because right now we don’t really know.”
Mercedes setup gamble didn’t pay off
Russell added Mercedes‘ aerodynamic setup didn’t help matters, as the W14 looked like it was running at half-speed in a straight line.
Russell nailed his setup to take victory at the 2022 Brazilian GP over Hamilton, but Mercedes‘ fall from grace could barely have been steeper 12 months on.
And that slow running caused intra-team problems too, as Russell accused Hamilton multiple times of sabotaging his race to further his own result.
All this after Mercedes‘ team principal Toto Wolff hinted the team could battle Red Bull and Max Verstappen for victory – Hamilton finished the race 63 seconds behind the Dutchman.
“We were definitely a sitting duck,” Russell added. “It was a choice we made to run a bit more downforce, when you run more downforce you’re meant to gain the speed through the corners, keep the tyres under control and that wasn’t the case.
“So we didn’t have the benefit we only had the negative side.”