George Russell believes Mercedes overcorrected the problems from their 2022 car, most notably porpoising and that the W14 is too conservative a design concept.
Mercedes entered the 2023 Formula 1 season with high hopes after an optimistic pre-season testing and a positive end to 2022, but were well off the pace for the season-opening 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Russell echoed team principal Toto Wolff‘s comments that their development targets had been met, but said they’d got something wrong when setting those targets.
“I think when you look at, let’s say, W13 we were clearly too aggressive with the car design and the bouncing and that was our big limitation,” Russell told the press.
“Fast forward 12 months, we wanted to be in a position where we’re not experiencing any of this.
“And we’ve probably equally overshot in the opposite direction, compromised too much performance, too much downforce for the lack of bouncing to learn that probably the changes that the FIA implemented over the winter solved the majority of our problems.”
“That being said, we can probably recover some of that lost performance from being too conservative. Is it for one second, we’re looking for compared to Red Bull? No, it’s not. Do we think we’re on the right track with our philosophy? Probably not either.”
Mercedes have estimated they’re at least a second behind Red Bull, while Lewis Hamilton even suggested that defecit’s closer to 1.5 seconds.
Hamilton and Russell finished fifth and seventh in the 2023 Bahrain GP as they were well off the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Of those frontrunners they only qualified ahead of Lance Stroll – who had rushed back from injury in a cycling accident and missed pre-season test. In the race Stroll passed Russell, while it was only the retired Charles Leclerc who had a worse afternoon.
Mercedes’ frank discussions
Russell added the Mercedes drivers and senior technical staff had met ahead of the Saudi Arabian GP to discuss the team’s development direction.
The Jeddah Corniche Circuit is only the second circuit the 2023 F1 cars have raced on since both testing and the first grand prix were in Bahrain, but Mercedes are still expected to be fourth in the pecking order.
“The team came together on Tuesday, last week, and had some very good, honest, open conversations,” Russell added.
“A lot of the questions were answered as to how we got ourselves in this position in the first place.
“What are we going to do short term, medium term to get out of it? What path do we want to be on? And those changes are already in place of that getting on the track that we believe it’s going to bring us back to victory.”