George Russell, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Russell says Red Bull ‘should win every race’ and he’s willing to ‘sacrifice’ season

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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A downbeat George Russell believes Red Bull’s championship victory is already a foregone conclusion after a single race.

The Mercedes driver said he is prepared to sacrifice this season in order to maximise the development the team can do to come back stronger next year.

“Red Bull have got this championship sewn up,” Russell told media including RaceFans. “I don’t think anybody’s going to be fighting with them this year and I expect them to win.

“They should win every single race this season is my bet. With the performance they’ve got, I don’t see anybody challenging. They’ve got it easy at the moment, they can do what they like.”

He thinks Red Bull may only face competition from their rivals on Saturdays. “They might not get on pole all of the time because we know that Ferrari are very competitive in qualifying,” he said, “but when it comes to race pace I think they’re in a very strong position.”

Race start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Poll: Vote for your 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix driver of the weekend
Russell finished today’s season-opening race in seventh, two places behind team mate Lewis Hamilton, who was 50 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen. He sees little chance of Mercedes getting on terms with Red Bull after their dominant one-two today.

“We’re here to win and we obviously want to optimise every single result,” he said. “But if you give me a choice between fighting and having a chance to win races whenever that is, versus slow progress and never having that chance, you obviously choose taking those victories.

“So if we’ve got to sacrifice some races or part of a season to give ourselves a chance to get a car that can fight, whether it’s the second half of the season or even if it’s looking towards next year, maybe that’s what we’re going to have to do because clearly we are a long way behind.”

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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56 comments on “Russell says Red Bull ‘should win every race’ and he’s willing to ‘sacrifice’ season”

  1. His assessment is more or less entirely matching mine, as I also already expected Max & RB to run away with both championships despite the season only having started, added to the wind tunnel-CFD penalty effect later on.

    1. I have watched a great many seasons start with an absolutely dominating victory by one team or another during the 30 odd years I’ve been watching this sport. It almost never ends up being that.

      The fact that George’s team for some odd reason decided to stick with what was plainly illustrated to be a failed concept last year is perhaps and end to their title hopes this season, but there are two other teams that are just one update or favorable track away from closing that gap. Calling the season over a single race is therefor a rather rash emotion.

      1. there are two other teams that are just one update or favorable track away from closing that gap

        I like your optimism, but I don’t see it after today’s race. Chances are Max had enough performance in hand to lap all other teams’ cars at least once.

        1. On a relatively easy pace we’ ve seen VER-RB with a 0.3 sec per lap.
          A serious contender will have to find at least 0.5 to catch up.
          In a good day, Ferrari may find it on LEC – not on SAI.
          Mercedes can barely catch up with SAI.
          Stranger things happened on F1, but it will be a surprise if this year doesnt just go better for RB than 2022.

      2. Which season since 1992 started with a dominating win like this and the driver/team was not the champion at the end of the year?

        I have not even a single example in mind.

        1. Go look up the results of the 1998 Australian Grand Prix.

          1. Oh, you have an added notion that the person and team has to lose the championship too.

            Yeah nah, nobody is saying Max isn’t a WDC contender, so that goalpost isn’t a thing. We’re talking about a close championship fight, it doesn’t matter if Max comes out on top or not.

          2. Yeah, Hakkinen won the race AND the championship.

            And you’re forgeting one thing : Max isn’t Hakkinen who couldn’t drive for his life with 2 drops of rain on the track.

            Also, unlimited tests and Schumacher at the wheel to help to cut the gap.

            And this is very likely the best example there is and still not a good one.
            I would link this year to a more dominating 2011 because Max is better than Vettel at that time and the other cars are weaker than those of 2011.

        2. That’s because there isn’t an example. You could probably go back 74 seasons and still not find an example. This season is over which is the norm in F1. I see 3 or 4 more seasons to match with past periods domination this century. The limited testing seems to lengthen these periods and the cap will only make it worse. We’ll have to see what the next regulation changes bring.

        3. If you remove the odd 1992 constraint, then Ligier started the 1979 season with a pair of 1-2 finishes for Lafitte/Depailler, then didn’t win again that season, ultimately finishing 4th/6th in the WDC. This was in the early ground effect era with aero underbodies that were conceptually similar to the current era of F1.

          Just to be clear, not expecting history to repeat itself this year.

          1. Wow, didn’t think it was possible to find such an example in all of f1 history, but yes, also think russell is right with his prediction, doubt they’ll win all races though, it’s never happened in f1 history, reliability is usually not bullet proof and if a verstappen is out and ferrari or aston improves a bit, perez is easily capable to end up behind them.

      3. There is only 1998 that comes to mind in that rough timeframe where a team outright dominated the first race and we ended up seeing a close championship. In season like 2000 and 2022 the results of the first race were skewed by unreliability of one team, not so much the dominance of the other.

        But 1998 was a year with plenty of opportunity for development, different tyre manufacturers, and not least important; the perceived dominant McLaren was up against an early manifestation of arguably the best team ever in Todt’s Ferrari with Byrne, Brawn, Schumacher and Martinelli.

        1. I’ll settle for 1998, if we can have a race as exciting as Spa – my all time fave.

          1. Sad thing is we’d have had another spa 1998 in 2021, if someone let them race…

        2. True, the only ones capable of bringing ferrari back to winning the championship in the modern formula 1 history.

        3. And the FIA changed the rules after the first race to hurt McLaren immediately and help Ferrari.

    2. Russell is basically saying what we know Hamilton did last season. Last season it was Hamilton who sacrificed the first half of the season gathering data to improve the car. It seems this farce is predestined for this season as well. What do they take us for?

    3. Maybe that is exactly what the 2023 PR campaign of Mercedes wants us to believe. The strategy is clear: shout that the season is already over to force Liberty/FIA to act, step in, change things. There currently isn’t a ‘safety card’ to flail around as with the purpoising (2022) and the tyres (2021). So this is what it is for now. Lewis chips in, George, Toto. It is all aligned and intentional. They are anxiously looking for that safety card to play.

  2. George is not wrong.

    Though the sacrificing of this season happened when Mercedes didn’t move on from the data-mirage design in early 2022, instead choosing to ignore reality and follow the champions of said design down the rabbit hole.

  3. I think George will leave Mercedes if Ferrari or Red Bull makes an offer to improve on Sainz or Perez. Mercedes is a team going nowhere. They showed up with the same car they ended last year with a couple of cosmetic changes.
    Their pit stops are horrendous. 5 seconds for George’s first, 2.7 on the second but they didn’t adjust his front wing properly. Their race strategy is nowhere. The car sucks, you need to be creative. Instead they saved their tires during the middle stint to do what? They pitted first. There is no prize to finish the day with slightly used tires. Hey Toto, you get a fresh set of tires at the next race. Aston Martin has soared past Mercedes technically and strategically. They are playing to win. Toto on the other hand is settling for a “meets expectation” grade. They should have let Russell pass Hamilton during the first stint when Lewis “woe is me” Hamilton was just cruising around. Lewis, F1 screwed you, 2 seasons ago. Get over it or retire!

    1. It was going so well, but you couldn’t help yourself. Alonso and Lewis can race as long as they’d like to, at this stage. No need to be upset about it. Both are beating their teammates handedly. George was no faster, he wanted to force team orders to get away from Alonso as long as he could.

      1. Indeed, I’m really impressed by what alonso is doing at this age, he’s roughly the age at which schumacher retired the 2nd time and on average decline starts at 35 and intensifies after 40, and hamilton also, while not as impressive, I didn’t expect he’d have beaten russell on pace more often than not last year.

    2. Oh dear! It was such a nice intelligent thread and then you turned up and dropped the average IQ to around the same gap Max won by.

    3. Roscoe is in charge of strategy now. Without Vowles, they’re Mrcds.

  4. Chrome Agnon
    6th March 2023, 0:11

    Is it April 1st already?
    I used to like George but think he should be fired now ( maybe that’s what he wants?).
    It is with great enjoyment that I witness this.
    Watching as Wolff and Hamiltons smug superiority complex goes down the drain.
    Really looking forward to more Bose brutality.

  5. No surprises that Mercedes are in for a long hard season.

    Once again we have an example of engineers insisting their model and data say that their design will ultimately be the best only to be proven wrong by real life experience on track.

    Love to be a fly on the wall at their next meeting back at the factory listening to the engineers trying to justify their confidence in their design. Toto, the drivers and the pit wall crew will have a complete melt down.

    Clearly there’ll be a need for some major reshuffles and some heads to roll but the fact of the matter is that in this budget cap era, there’s probably not the budget to bring a brand new chassis for 2023 to replace what is a clearly flawed one.

    Still, it’s not all bad. They could have Mclaren’s design team :)

  6. Mercedes showed up with this “Size Zero!!!”-concept with such fanfare, perhaps they really want to give it a good opportunity to mature before scrapping the concept? Or is it arrogance that has them convinced to stay with a flawed car concept, they have publicly stated has reached it’s limits, as early as before last year’s summer break?

  7. Red Bull have got this championship sewn up

    Mercedes F1 team won every Constructors’ Championship from 2014 through to 2021. Their last race win was last year. His sentiments regarding Red Bull were probably the sentiments held by all the other teams in the years Mercedes dominated the racing. When he was at Williams he heard them repeating certain philosophies race after race to keep themselves motivated. Maybe this experience of not being the favourite to win at least some of the races this year is new to Mercedes, but it isn’t to Williams (last win 2012), nor for most of the other F1 teams. Alfa Romeo won their last F1 race in 1951, while Aston Martin and Haas have never won an F1 race. It is hard to know if Aston Martin’s performance at Bahrain will continue this year, but I expect it will, so I am expecting them to win at least one race this year. The reason Aston Martin can expect to win a race this year is because they will go to every race with a car that has that ability.

    1. so I am expecting them to win at least one race this year

      So Red Bull 22, Aston Martin 1, rest 0?
      Sounds sewn up to me :)
      Obviously that won’t probably happen, I can’t see even Max having a completely trouble-free season. But I’ve yet to see a convincing argument for how another team gets consistently close to Red Bull. There’s neither the budget or regulatory leeway over the season. And Red Bull are not even at full pace themselves yet.

      1. @david-br – hit nail square on. Teams with the money are handcuffed unless of course they do an Rbr and go over. An entire season is a long time to wait.

        After Nando passed Hamilton and Sainz he was 10 seconds clear up the road. I honestly don’t know how you catch that up, plus Rbr were even further…

        I think George’s assessment is correct, Rbr and Max’s title to lose. But they did a brilliant job on the reg change, Goat Newey marches on…

        1. @icarby You’re completely right to say Red Bull / Newey deserve maximum credit for the new design. The floor aero in particular was/is pure genius, running a rake while maintaining a lateral seal, thus virtually eliminating purpoising from the outset and keeping their design philosophy. Plus the new power they’re getting. My only complaint is that the team that’s stole an advantage (meant metaphorically, give or take the overspend) is now much more difficult to catch with all the limitations on spend, testing etc.
          The only hope this season is that other tracks may show Aston Martin and Ferrari, say, to be more competitive versus Red Bull and give them a race.

          1. @david-br – Rbr showed there car was performing pretty much everywhere. It will be a big ask I think for AMR to get to Rbr level, if they can fight Ferrari for 2nd that would be really something but AMR have an obvious weakness.

            I guess what will be entertaining is seeing which direction Mercedes will go in and how quickly they can bring the new concept. I think jumping on the Rbr train is way too late and will guarantee them playing second fiddle till 2026 at least.

          2. @icarby :(
            Trying to stay minimally optimistic; it’s difficult.

  8. This race had a 2009 feel to it. Red Bull won by a mile while probably coasting for the majority of the race.

    The difference being Brawn didn’t improve their car during the season so were eventually caught on pace but had done enough early on to take the titles. Red Bull will continue to improve.

    1. The problem is Red Bull might not spend their ATR time on this years car if they have such a huge advantage and move more resources to next year thus limiting the damage of the penalty this year. Teams needed to be close enough to force Red Bull to spend development time on this years car and on current evidence (albeit only 1 race) it seems they’re nowhere close. This is bad for this year and next in terms of a competitive championship.

      I mean Red Bull have done a great job so that’s not a problem for them to dominate, it’s just not what most people want for the sport apparently is one team succeeding.

      1. @slowmo I think the interesting thing is the ‘fans’ who pilloried HAM and Mercedes for 2014-2021 come from two camps – one camp wants an even spread of performance and, ultimately, good close racing. The other camp has a different agenda. Let’s see where those ‘fans’ fall after 2-3 more seasons of this?

  9. Goodbye George. Seems we’ve lost another one to Mercedes’ antics and narratives.

  10. petebaldwin (@)
    6th March 2023, 11:57

    I can understand some of the newer fans who haven’t watched F1 much saying things like “the season is over already” but it’s funny seeing experienced people involved in F1 saying it. There are plenty of variables yet to come that could make a massive change to the season.

    -Mercedes will no doubt campaign for some in-season rules changes.
    -Ferrari might slowly start to figure out how to operate as a professional racing team.
    -Aston Martin are 1 race into working with their new car (whereas the Red Bull is much more of an evolution of their previous car) so they will have plenty of pace to unlock. Most teams won’t have figured out how to set their cars up perfectly yet – we don’t know if, for example, Red Bull are 80% there but Ferrari are only 20% there meaning they have much more time to gain.
    -F1 cars sometimes struggle on specific circuits/surfaces. Ferrari for example, suffered from heavy deg but the surface at Jeddah is much smoother. Throughout pre-season testing and the first race, they’ve used a single circuit so the order could change significantly next race.
    -Some teams just have a bad car. Other have a good car with one of two glaring issues that need to be fixed. Once they are fixed, they might be just as quick as Red Bull.

    My suggestion would be to stop whinging, get your heads down and get on with the work that’s clearly needed. Mercedes clearly have major problems with their data and how they calculate things off-track so perhaps that’s a good starting point.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      6th March 2023, 13:38

      @petebaldwin Red Bull locked the front rown and were 0.3-0.4 seconds ahead of Leclerc and Sainz. That’s a lifetime when competing for P1 and P2. It’s kind of like running the 100m in 9.6 seconds and 9.9 seconds.

      Aston Martin was close to the 10 second mark.
      Mercedes were over the 10 second mark.

      The teams qualified within a second of each other (whoo, it’s never happened before!!! so close, so much racing) and then there’s no overtaking other than Alonso who got clipped by Stroll.

      If they have the same pace, Aston Martin is going to be the reason to watch F1 this season as they can dance around every car but the Red Bulls.

      Last year was unwatchable. Red Bulls were overtaking before corners, it was absurd to watch. It’s like scoring goals in soccer from the other box consistently :-)

      1. @freelittlebirds – Do you think it would be unreasonable to allow the chasing pack to catch up by any means necessary? Or is that too harsh on the leaders for doing a better job…

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          6th March 2023, 16:13

          @icarby the sport needs competition. I’m going to fast forward through races otherwise. We may need highlights or combine MotoGP with F1. During the F1 races, they switch to MotoGP highlights and switch to the F1 race if and when there’s action. No one likes to watch people just driving around.

          Perez needs to go today. They need whoever can challenge Verstappen there. It’s unwatchable.

    2. Once they are fixed, they might be just as quick as Red Bull.

      I’d agree if we were talking about a tenth or two and there were no limits on development.

      But I’d argue Max could’ve lapped Fred yesterday and there’s a budget cap limiting all the slower teams from catching up, much less overtaking Red Bull this season.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        6th March 2023, 16:39

        @proesterchen – True. I’m not saying Red Bull aren’t the heavy favourites or that I think others will catch them up – I’m simply saying that suggesting the season is already over after 1 race is a bit premature…. They’ve done less than 100 laps at racing speed and only around a single track so whilst it may not prove to be the case, I would expect there to be plenty of extra pace in most of the cars that they can find through minor updates and better setups.

        We don’t have a clue where the ceiling is for each car yet, how they’ll perform on different types of tracks, how they’ll deal with different temperatures and so on. It’s a bit like a football team scoring 3 goals in the first 20 minutes and then saying “3-0 up after 20 minutes!? Right I’m turning the TV off. They’ve already won.” They probably will win but we’ve seen teams lose from that position before…..

    3. @petebaldwin

      I can understand some of the newer fans who haven’t watched F1 much saying things like “the season is over already” but it’s funny seeing experienced people involved in F1 saying it. There are plenty of variables yet to come that could make a massive change to the season.

      To be fair.. Red Bull has around 0.5s in hand in quali on the next closest car.. and around 0.8s on race pace. While those numbers aren’t insurmountable… there are a few factors that make the chances really slim for a comeback by any of the other ‘frontrunners’ –
      1) Ferrari – Ferrari will just be Ferrari. They haven’t been able to out develop a Red Bull car in 15 years. Last year they only lost the gap to Red Bull as the season progressed, and we should expect the same this season. They’re also not serious championship contenders as they have a backmarker-esque quality on track operations, strategy and reliability.
      2) Mercedes – Have just gotten the concept horribly wrong. They know they cannot develop this concept to catch up to Red Bull, so they’ll be taking several step backwards to regroup for the future. They are a write off.
      3) Aston Martin – Still way too early for this team to challenge at the front. They’ll need at least a season or two to potentially catchup.

      I get what you’re saying regarding different types of circuits/degredation etc. I’m not saying Red Bull will take pole on every circuit, but they’ll probably have the best race day car, and in the hands of Max, it’s only mechanical issues that will slow him down.

      Some teams just have a bad car. Other have a good car with one of two glaring issues that need to be fixed. Once they are fixed, they might be just as quick as Red Bull.

      Unfortunately for teams that find fixes, they’ll find that Red Bull is a constantly moving marker. They just won’t be able to close the gap soon enough to be title contenders.

      I don’t think Red Bull will take 22 race wins this season, but they’re currently in a stronger place than they were last season. If they took 17 wins last season, there’s every chance that this season would be the same if not better.

  11. F1 needs to rethink the budget cap concept.
    Realistically Merc, Ferrari, AM, Alpine, Merc should be able to spend their way to parity resulting in more exciting racing.
    As it is RB have done an awesome job and are now uncatchable, as Merc were in the previous formula due to engine development restrictions.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      6th March 2023, 13:23

      Yep, the season is over and there’s no competition.

  12. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    6th March 2023, 13:28

    Yeah, unfortunately they can’t make a leap forward without breaking the budget. If only breaking the budget was permissible.

    1. @freelittlebirds If you’re going to go over budget, may as well do it from the first season of the new formula, when the advantage gets locked in and FIA are likely to be more lenient about a few accountancy errors.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        6th March 2023, 14:05

        @david-br yep, Red Bull struck gold there with that one. I’m sure Mercedes and Ferrari would love to go back and redo those seasons going over-budget as well.

        1. Red bull are more cunning, direct competition on track isn’t enough (probably never was) to be champions.

  13. The unintended consequence of eliminating advertising for cigarette brands (not just in racing, everywhere) was that it locked in the market share and competitive positions of all the players.

    Sounds familiar

  14. It is what it is. George is not wrong, I think the problem is giving Max a team mate that could at least push him. At least back in the Mercedes dominant years we had Lewis and Nico fighting for it. It really must be deflating though to the rest of the competition

    1. At least back in the Mercedes dominant years we had Lewis and Nico fighting for it

      Except, of course, for 2017, and 2018, and 2019, and 2020, when Mercedes chose to place safe-hands Valtteri in that second car.

      1. @proesterchen

        Except, of course, for 2017, and 2018, and 2019, and 2020, when Mercedes chose to place safe-hands Valtteri in that second car.

        Bottas who, despite his relative weakness to Hamilton, was allowed to fight for race wins? Perez isn’t getting anywhere near Verstappen, and if he does, by fluke or by talent, the team will just engineer a swap – they’ve already done it repeatedly.

        1. Chrome Agnon
          9th March 2023, 10:46

          Er…. “Valtteri, James here……”

  15. Prepping another TDA for FIA…….

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