George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2022

Video footage shows Mercedes’ struggles are genuine – Russell

2022 F1 season

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George Russell says that Mercedes are still searching for a way to “unlock” the potential of their car after pre-season testing came to an end.

Mercedes ended the third and final day of the second test in Bahrain with the fourth-fastest overall time. World champion Max Verstappen topped the times for Red Bull ahead of Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari.

Speaking after the final day’s running, Russell shared team mate Lewis Hamilton’s assessment that Mercedes were lacking behind their two common rivals.

“I think we’re probably not as competitive as we would like, to be honest,” Russell said. “I think the Ferrari and the Red Bull are in the sort of natural position, and I think we’re just a step [behind].

“Their delta from the front to the midfield and to the back is probably correct. We’re just a little bit further behind them than we’d like. I believe the guys are going to get to the bottom of it. There is potential there, but we just need to figure a way to unlock that performance.”

Russell covered almost 200 laps of the Bahrain circuit over the three days of testing. Mercedes introduced radically overhauled sidepod designs onto the car for the second test, but appeared to be struggling more visibly from porpoising along the straights and with the balance of the W13 in the corners.

“It is pretty clear where we’re limited,” Russell said. “You’ve only got to watch the videos and you see it’s bouncing around a lot and it’s not putting the car in the right window.

“The team have worked incredibly hard to try and find solutions for this. We’ve yet to find one, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to find one ahead of next week or later in the season. This is a long game, I do believe that performance is there somewhere, we’ve just got to find it.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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18 comments on “Video footage shows Mercedes’ struggles are genuine – Russell”

  1. I actually do believe them when they say they are behind Red Bull and Ferrari right now. If you watched the session, the Mercedes exhibited a lot more negative characteristics than either of those two teams. But, just because they are behind right now doesn’t mean they can’t turn up to Bahrain next week and win. You can never discount this team, I would be surprised if they didn’t have some tweaks that will tame the car considerably. And this is a long season with 23 races, you don’t have to start out the quickest car to win the title. If Mercedes believe their concept has more potential than other cars (Hamilton possibly alluded to this), they can afford to start the season slower but ramp it up when the European season hits.

    This might have shades of Red Bull in 2012 when they started out the season without the fastest car, but they got it to a very good level where it was capable of picking up some wins in the first half of the season, before introducing their major update in Singapore and winning 4 races in a row and wrestling the title back.

  2. So that confirms what Lewis had to say.
    Makes sense to me.

  3. RocketTankski
    12th March 2022, 17:40

    Well the trouble is, see that? -You need all new dampers..

  4. Mate, we’d all be more sympathetic to the idea of believing you if your team and your teammate hadn’t made “overcoming” incredible “struggles” a laughable try at self-aggrandizing for almost a decade.

    1. I can think of three years in the last 8 where Mercedes was definitely behind the curve for the first half of the season.

      But the internet echo chamber doesn’t allow for such facts to impinge on the perceived reality.

      But, believe whatever you want. You will anyway.

      1. Let’s all be sure to go out of our way to post comments in the nastiest manner possible. It’s not enough to simply disagree.

  5. We will see, I think they have issues but I also suspect they have their engine turned down. If the team was really struggling as bad as they say, I think they would be more tight lipped than they have been. They do have a history of saying one thing and showing up on at races with surprising performance. IMHO, Merc want everyone thinking the Merc design doesn’t work so it delays other teams from investing a lot of time trying to copy, thus extending their advantage.

    I could be wrong.

    1. @blueruck Yeah it’s just that I don’t think most teams would be able to go the route Merc has, at this point. Williams perhaps. And let’s not forget the budget caps that might get in the way even if some wanted to try to do the extensive work to go the Mercedes way. Positioning of the rads particularly etc etc. And you’d think they’d at least have had the engine turned up fairly race level at some point just to see if a little more hp and speed would improve how the aero works, and how the car feels at the higher speeds.

      I’m simply not convinced that their design is the go-to design that we will see teams gravitate towards, even if that is for next year. They say there is much more to find in this car and there may well be, but will that be enough, and/or will it be too late for them to catch up. That’ll depend on if there are one, or will it be two teams, e.g. Ferrari and RBR, grabbing the majority of the points in the first number of races.

      Of course I could be wrong too, and they could, as some are suggesting, find a few things to do between now and next weekend that will actually help them a great deal. Just remains to be seen, as they definitely do not seem to be the team to bet on for winning the first couple of races at a minimum.

  6. “Figure a way to unlock the performance…”

    Yeah, just turn on the rocket engine in the back of your car George…

  7. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    12th March 2022, 18:36

    Seen them struggle a couple of times before with new designs. Don’t underestimate their ability to get on top of the problems, and for those of you who think they are sandbagging, yes, the PU is turned down, but so is the Ferrari and Honda. The problem Merc have will be exacerbated by more speed, not improved! Many people seem to mistake hard graft and working the problems from sandbagging. To those I would say, look at the onboards. That’s not sandbagging!

    1. @davewillisporter
      As a Ferrari fan I can tell you that you can’t solve an understeery hard to drive car like this year’s Mercedes in one week. I’ve seen that sort of behaviour and how much time and effort it takes to correct it countless times in the last decade with Ferrari :)

      Seeing the drivers struggling like that means that they are really on the limit. Mercedes are probably experiencing different set-ups and configurations to hit the limit with regard to tyre management, cooling… After testing they will sure have an idea about the optimum operating window of their car and will be chasing performance with a big upgrade package starting next week.

      I expect a Hamilton pole position with minimum 0.5s clear of the rest of the field. RBR are fast but Mercedes with those sidepods and the mighty power is scary. If they are really struggling like they are claiming at the moment then they are in a big trouble and got their entire car concept wrong à la Ferrari in 2012.

      1. @tifoso1989 Ferrari isn’t exactly the best example. Blame-games, firing the wrong people at the wrong time and just generally making things worse seems (okay, seemed. They ARE much better now) to be their reaction to a car with problems.

  8. The Mercedes way seems to be extreme innovation and making the car better to suit all tracks. Compared with neweys way, innovative chassis but small step development with keeping the car in balance.
    The big difference always was the extreme powerful Mercedes engine that solved a lot of design issues. But high power and porpoising seems a bad combination.

  9. It looks like the car is even more of a diva than last year and 2018 then.

    1. For all those thinking they might be wrong …
      I too once made a mistake, but it turned out I only thought I was wrong.
      “Cheer-up” my Dad used to say. “Things could be worse”.
      So I cheered up, and the rest is history.

  10. Mercedes might races both specs at the same time (Barcelona spec and Bahrain spec). One driver can race with one spec and other can race the newer spec till they solve their issues and conclude which concept is better to develop further.

  11. Yes, sure George. Lets just hope you are right because quite frankly we could do without Mercedes narratives for a season. Please go and do enjoy yourselves in the midfield. I do however not believe it for a second.

  12. Things are looking a lot like last season. This time around I don’t think merc is clearly the fastest as they were last season but I do believe that when they dial that car down, they will be the team to beat.

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