If you think Mercedes are going to be competing for victory at the 2023 Formula 1 season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, think again, says George Russell.
The Brit is adamant the team have made progress from this point in 2022, but conceded that it’s unlikely he and Lewis Hamilton will be able to match Max Verstappen and Red Bull until later in the season.
“We definitely believe eventually we will have a car capable of getting in that fight,” Russell said.
“Whether we’re going to have that next weekend in Bahrain, I think may be a bit of a stretch.”
Verstappen has appeared to be in a league of his own during the opening two days of pre-season testing.
The Dutchman topped the timesheets on day one and finished just 0.04s behind Zhou Guanyu on day two, despite being on tyres two steps harder
“They [Red Bull] look very strong, very stable,” Russell added. “The car is looking really strong and obviously Max is performing really well.
“So I think realistically, it will be a stretch for next week. But there’s no reason why eventually we can’t get there at some point this year, and we’ve always seen the strength of Mercedes and their development rates.
“The entry phase [to the corner] has been improved. It’s no secret when you’re watching the onboards and videos that we are struggling a little bit with the balance, struggling a lot in the mid corner.
“But I think it’s a balance that is probably easier to solve than we had last year. So even though it’s still a limitation, I think it’s a good problem to have.”
Russell confirms hydraulic issue
Russell‘s running on day two of testing was brought to an abrupt halt at just 26 laps when his W14 pulled off to the side of the track.
It was the first reliability issue Mercedes have faced in 2023, with the team unable to resolve the issue in time to make a return and fulfill their quota.
“Unfortunately, we had a hydraulic issue this afternoon which cost us some running,” Russell added. “Even though we didn’t complete our full programme, we uncovered some interesting things in the data throughout the day.
“That is a positive and we will analyse these overnight with the aim of finding lap time. We haven’t unlocked everything yet in the W14 and everyone is working hard to do so and maximise our final day of testing tomorrow.”