Hamilton and Russell agree on key aspect of Mercedes F1 car

After 110 race wins between 2014 and 2021, Mercedes have just one victory since George Russell joined the team

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Mercedes are optimistic they’re starting the 2024 Formula 1 season in a much better position than any other year of the current regulations with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell feeling upbeat ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Russell finished with the second-fastest time on the final day of pre-season testing, less than half a tenth behind pacesetter Charles Leclerc, but Mercedes are still seemingly behind Red Bull and possibly Ferrari ahead of the season-opening grand prix.

Russell believes the Mercedes W15 has the most development potential of any of his seasons at the team, while Hamilton hailed the optimistic mood around the team after they finally abandoned their ‘zero sidepods’ design philosophy.

“Everyone’s really focused, it’s always an exciting time of the year when you see everyone just coming together and just getting on with their job, great motivation within the team,” Hamilton told the media in Bahrain. “And we have a better platform to work from this year.

“We still have some problems that we’re having to work through and it’s not perfect, but it’s definitely a better starting place from the past few years so we’re relatively happy in that respect. We’re not where we want to be, we’re not competing with the guys at the front, but we work towards it.”

Mercedes won 110 races in eight seasons from 2014-21, but have only won a single grand prix in the current era of F1 regulations – Russell‘s triumph at the 2022 Brazilian GP after also winning the sprint race around Interlagos.

Yet following two years hampered by chasing the wrong design concept, Russell believes the tables are finally turning.

“I’m confident the development slope of this car should be greater than we’ve seen over the past two cars, because we’ve got a better platform,” Russell said. “But it is just outright performance. You know, the cars feeling nice to drive, you’re feeling good to drive but we’re just lacking downforce.”

Mercedes morale has never been higher

Russell was also set to win on debut with Mercedes at the 2020 Sakhir GP when standing in for Hamilton – who’d been ruled out with Covid-19 – before successive pitstop errors by the team caused the victory to slip away.

Russell has endured a frustrating time in Brackley following three years at Williams while Mercedes hoovered up five championships – and were only denied a clean sweep by Michael Masi‘s ‘human error’ in 2021.

A first grand prix win for George Russell goes up in smoke in Sakhir | LAT Images/Mercedes F1 team
A first grand prix win for George Russell goes up in smoke in Sakhir | LAT Images/Mercedes F1 team

However, Russell feels the mood around Mercedes is visibly different as he enters the year needing to show that he can lead the team with Hamilton departing for Ferrari in 2025.

“I think last year the morale was really quite low at this point,” Russell added. “There’d been so much work across the winter, we arrived and had a car that wasn’t performing anything close to what we expected, not just in terms of lap time, but in terms of the characteristics that the car faced.

“Now we’ve put a lot of work over this winter, and the car is performing as we would expect in terms of the way it’s driving. We just need to make it faster now.

“So it’s always the stopwatch that counts, but at least the simulator is correlating well, the work we’ve done has worked as we’ve expected, we just need to make the car faster.”

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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