George Russell says that the ride height problems that saw Lewis Hamilton disqualified in the United States Grand Prix shouldn’t be an issue this weekend, and that the team feels optimistic heading into the 2023 Mexico City GP.
Hamilton, a 103-time Formula 1 race winner, was disqualified following a random selection Parc Ferme check which discovered excessive wear to the floor plank under the W14 car, which was beyond the 1mm tolerance permitted by the FIA.
Alongside Charles Leclerc‘s Ferrari, the disqualifications were the first of that kind for 30 years, and came after an encouraging race for Mercedes as they battled for the win around the Circuit of the Americas against Max Verstappen‘s Red Bull.
Now as the Silver Arrows prepare to take to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Russell said the team expect that they will have no issues with the ride height, which they believe was a consequence of the limited practice sessions offered by the sprint weekend format.
“I think it’s a very different layout here,” Russell said to the media.
“With one [practice] session in Austin, we did all of the standard checks after Free Practice 1 and and the plank looked absolutely fine. So there was no reason after the practice session to make any changes, but obviously, we got that very wrong.
“I expect the nature of this circuit to be naturally more conservative and with the three practice sessions, I don’t foresee any any issues.”
Can Mercedes fight for the win?
In 2022, Mercedes and Red Bull were closely matched as Verstappen averaged 0.064 faster in Mexico than Hamilton despite running a softer compound in the opening stint of the race.
However, the race was lost once the Brackley team opted for the hard compounds despite the soft tyres completing approximately 30-40 laps and showing far better degradation than anticipated.
Verstappen opted for mediums and opened up a 15-second gap come the end of the race, as Hamilton just managed to fend off Sergio Perez in the sister Red Bull to cling to second place in what essentially became a repeat of the 2021 edition.
Now in 2023, buoyed by a new update that appears to be successful and the low-altitude inherently reducing drag which should bring the grid closer to Red Bull, can Mercedes steal their first win of the season with four rounds to go?
“The car performed really well last year,” Russell said. “On paper, I’d say this circuit suits us better than the likes of Austin, Qatar and Japan, of which we were still pretty competitive too.
“So I wouldn’t say we have high hopes here, but I think it should suit a slightly better. It’s bit of an unknown going to the C5 compound this year compared to the C4 last year, but no we’re feeling optimistic about these next two races.”
Track Limits not expected to be an issue
Track limits is a story that has often plagued the headlines in the 2023 season, frustrating drivers who consistently maintain that they cannot see the edges of the track due to the larger Pirelli tyres – notably in Qatar.
It reared its head once again at the US GP as Perez frequently reported Russell for going off-track before it emerged on social media that the Mexican appeared to be going off regularly at Turn 6.
But the Brit, who finished fourth in the Mexican capital in 2022, doesn’t expect track limits to dominate discourse this weekend.
“It shouldn’t be a problem. I can’t think of any corners that are going to be a limitation,” Russell continued. “I think Turn 2 there was a bit of a problem last year with some some drivers cutting it.
“It’s circuits like this that you want to be racing on where there isn’t an opportunity to be pushed off, but still take the advantage. I think Austin and Austria, I can’t think of any others now, but those types of circuits lends itself to that.”