George Russell, Mercedes, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023

Mercedes “have more performance in the locker” for coming races – Russell

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In the round-up: George Russell says Mercedes made clear progress between the first two races of the season and will bring more improvements in the coming rounds.

In brief

Russell sees early progress at Mercedes

After being disappointed by their start to the season in Bahrain, Mercedes looked in better shape in Saudi Arabia where both drivers finished ahead of the Ferraris. Russell, who took fourth ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton, said they “definitely made a step in the right direction.”

“Above all we just truly maximised the potential of the car,” he explained. “We had a really strong qualifying which was really enjoyable. I’d really pleased to come home in P4 on the road because I felt like that was the maximum that was possible.

“I was having fun up there, the car was feeling good. We know we’ve got some more performance in the locker, in some races to come.”

“Every little margin matters” in “crazy” midfield

Zhou Guanyu says the contest in the midfield is so close this year the smallest mistakes can have a significant impact.

“I think realistically we are fighting from P9 to P13, 14,” said the Alfa Romeo driver, who finished 13th on Sunday. “Everything can happen and one little mistake or one little thing you get wrong, you could be compromised from a points finish to a struggle at the back.

“So this season is really crazy, but it’s really nice in a way that’s every little margin matters.”

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Comment of the day

The chance of a competitive season this year do not look good, say @David-br:

Even the Red Bull drivers know it’s just between them this season. Verstappen is better (a lot). And Red Bull want him to win the title. So congratulations to Max on his third title.
The rest – Ferrari, Aston Martin, Mercedes, even Alpine?! – will be an interesting-ish battle in theory, but RBR winning everything at a canter will see a dent in F1’s commercial rise. It’s going to be a long season.

Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Gary Richardson, Gaz, Thomahawk_93, Thomas Martin and Alec Glen!

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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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22 comments on “Mercedes “have more performance in the locker” for coming races – Russell”

  1. I’m quietly excited for what we might see from Mercedes in a few races time, it’s a hopeful quote from Russell and McLaren have been humming the same tune of performance to come. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a different top 10 come the mid-season.

    There’s probably opportunities for strategy over the season to come into play with the budget cap, do you make the best car you can at the start of the season and work on maximising that package through greater understanding and set-up throughout the year, or test and develop throughout the season and bring better upgrades? With Aston Martin saying they have gone more for the former it could make for an interesting season.

    That being said CotD is probably right, but even with a dent in the rise F1 is still in a great place, if ticket prices rising and still selling out is any indicator. If some new fans from the ’21 season get a bit of a shock that it’s not the norm that’s probably a good thing. There were way too many shenanigan’s for that to be manufactured year on year and if it was, that would be way worse.

  2. The Dolphins
    21st March 2023, 0:45

    Agree with Keith’s Tweet, rose-tinted specs for sure. Indianapolis 2005 was the death of the tyre wars and we should not look to repeat that farce.

    1. Overly simplistic comparisons are also something we should avoid.

      Taking one rule change, out of context, and comparing it with another era and that rule, isn’t just rose-tinted, it’s blinkered.

      The era of one tire vendor producing, and repeatedly testing, one tire compound to benefit a single driver, is gone, along with multiple test teams. Claiming that opening up the tire bidding to more than one manufacturer would take us back to that era is specious, at best, and deceitful at worst.

      These days, we get one, maybe two tire tests a season, tires designed to fail, and tightly restricted tire options that frankly are making the sport worse in the name of “cost savings”. I get the idea of reduced tire costs, but now that the teams can’t even pick their own tires to suit their chassis, it’s whoever optimizes their car for a specific tire best that wins. Seriously– a nearly 4 mile long track, and each driver gets two of the hard compound tires for the entire weekend?!?

      Then at the last moment, Pirelli changes the starting tire pressure? Again?

      1. As much as I like a parallel tyre development aspect, there’s no doubt that having the tyres the same for everyone puts the focus on the teams to get the best out of them, and not on who has the best tyres. F1 is about the teams and the drivers, not 3rd party suppliers.
        The teams don’t need to just build the ‘best’ car, they actually need to make it work better in the same conditions as everyone else. It isn’t just a design competition then, it’s an ongoing performance competition too.
        Given that so much of F1’s development now happens in the virtual world, the more focus on the teams to improvise and perform at the track, the better.

        1. F1 is about the teams and the drivers, not 3rd party suppliers.

          Lots of parts of the car are made by third parties, from the brakes and springs to the fuel and oils. Some are even major sponsors of these teams.

          I don’t disagree that having a shared tyre puts the emphasis in a place where the public generally has a greater interest. But, in this case that shared component should be more like the Mclaren supplied ECU. Something that nobody needs to talk about because ‘it just works’.

          1. Something that nobody needs to talk about because ‘it just works’.

            The tyres do work.
            Some people make an argument that they don’t work simply because their expectations or desires exceed reality.

            If people are talking about tyres then they really should be considering how they are being used – not the tyres themselves in isolation, as they are (as good as) the same for everyone and don’t do anything at all on their own.
            If you want the tyre to perform ‘better’ then you must design, tune and drive your car ‘better’ for the given tyre.

            That seems perfectly comparable to the McLaren Applied ECU’s many racing series use (including F1).
            The teams that have the most understanding of the component and integrate it most efficiently with the rest of the system/s can extract the most performance from it.
            Suppose someone restricted themselves to a ‘stock’ program (or setup) instead of a custom one – their very specific engine (or car) wouldn’t perform anywhere near it’s maximum either, would it…. It would be less efficient, produce lower peak performance, and likely have less endurance before it becomes unusable.
            Just like the tyres.

          2. Just imagine you are a new supplier. Surely you would want to sign on with Red Bull. Imagine if that helped Red bull, and AT, but they cannot deliver much with them anyway gain another second a lap. Now that would be fun, right? We already saw what spec built tyres for Ferrari did to the competitiveness of the field roughly 2 decades ago

            Even better, due to testing restrictions and budget restraints, there would be even LESS oppertunity for other teams to catch up.

  3. Regarding the July 2021 Euro Final robbing, perhaps he’ll be more cautious about his surroundings in the future or not wear any valuable watch in the first place to minimize risks.

    The Guardian article: No more than in the greater team dominant performances.

    The Sun, more than a single point:
    FIA indeed need to get their act together
    I doubt about an intra-team rift at RB. Max simply took an advantage Checo could’ve equally done regarding the fastest lap bonut.
    The only way of avoiding guest DJ music getting heard randomly on the world feed coverage is that such music wouldn’t get played in the first place.
    So an issue with the truck used for driver parade is why drivers got interview on the podiums.
    Masi won’t return in any case. Too much damage got done for his comeback’s tenability.

    Keith’s tweet couldn’t be more spot-on.

    COTD: I don’t think the season will necessarily be long because of RB winning regularly & most likely, Max, given his general pace versus Checo.
    Outright dominance level-wise, no worse than Mclaren, Ferrari, & Mercedes dominances.

    1. @jerejj

      Outright dominance level-wise, no worse than Mclaren, Ferrari, & Mercedes dominances.

      Perhaps not. But leaving Schumacher/Ferrari (and maybe Red Bull/Vettel for a while) Rosberg was some kind of threat to Hamilton and won one championship when they were at their peak and no other team had a serious chance. True, Bottas wasn’t really a serious rival but by then we had Ferrari winning races and offering some competition.
      The problem this season is Verstappen winning the WDC at a pace and Perez just picking up second places. Does Jeddah mean that we might have a championship battle? I’d guess less chance than Bottas had at Mercedes. Partly because Verstappen is a lot faster than Perez, partly because the intra-team dynamics favour Verstappen. There were some interesting comments on the BBC F1 podcast about the animosity shown by Verstappen senior to Checo’s win – remembering the allegations and rumours from last year that he’d crashed on purpose in Monaco qualifying. So even if Checo does put a run of wins together, the internal pressures in the team will be huge and I don’t see any resolution going his way.

  4. Schrodinger’s Mercedes – top-level performance is just a few upgrades away, but also (according to Wolff) they’re way off the pace and won’t win a race this year.

    And honestly, the thing that will kill the sport is all the deeply tedious op-eds about how Red Bull’s dominance is killing the sport. It’s been two races. We’ve just put up with eight years of this from another team, and most of the people now complaining were telling us we should be grateful to be watching a driver and team at the top of their game. So pipe down.

    1. And people who are happy with Red Bull dominating have spent 8 years complaining about the opposite. Who knew, hypocrites are hypocritical. Actually most Mercedes fans seem to just want the team to do better and get to the level Red Bull are performing at, preferably without cheating. That seems pretty reasonable aspirations for fans.

      Nobody at Mercedes has said Red Bull are killing the sport and I see few fans saying the same either. In fact you seem to have invented a imaginary poster just to try and rile people with that silly pipe down comment.

      1. well said…

      2. I don’t like dominance in either case, however we didn’t have 8 years of merc dominance, let’s say 5; 2017, 2018 and 2021 there was a decent battle or more.

    2. @red-andy I agree Mercedes or Ferrari could get closer to Red Bull over the season.
      However, reliability aside, that Red Bull looks almost a perfect car. Well-powered, fast, easy on its tyres, high top-speed, good in all corners, and has an insane burst of speed with the DRS open, blasting past everyone.

  5. I think Russell showed there is little wrong with the Mercedes car. They have managed to make the gap smaller vs last year. Wolff is clearly on a PR campaign again but I do not think FIA will listen to him anymore, so it won’t matter much. I am interested to see what the car can do with a right attitude Lewis in it as he seems to be holding back the team at the moment. It is his time to pay back the service they’ve provided him for so long. Hammertime!

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      21st March 2023, 15:49

      I don’t think they knew how quick Russell’s setup was. I think everyone was surprised by it including both drivers. The gap to Alonso barely grew once Russell started pushing the car and it was clearly quicker than Hamilton’s. I almost wonder if they could have held off Alonso. With that setup and some extra upgrades, they may be quicker than the Aston Martin.

  6. That’s a rather negative take on tyre supplier competition. It could just as easily lead to the opposite situation, like in 1997 where McLaren was frequently more competitive thanks to Bridgestone even if Williams and Ferrari were the clear top teams.

    Suppose Mercedes was on Michelin and that cut the gap by, as Keith suggests, a second… this season could be a classic in the making.

    1. @MichaelN The negativity regarding tyre supplier rivalry has been going on for years and frankly I don’t understand it. More then one manufacturer creates competition which will drive product improvement forward which surely would be better for racing? Also I don’t understand Kieths comment regarding the cost cap as I don’t see that it has anything to do with the price of tyres. If you had Pirelli, Michelin and Hankook all vying to supply a team/s with tyres then they would be offering the teams incentives to attract them which will drive the price down, not up. If you are going to have one tyre supplier, then why not one brake supplier, one fuel supplier, one engine supplier one suspension supplier etc etc. How about one Mother to supply all the drivers? It all seems very silly to me but the FIA make a lot of money by giving out single supply contracts and that should be banned immediately as it is depriving the fans of ultimate competition. But then nobody listens to the fans do they.

  7. Bad history aside, I don’t see how a tyre war could be instrumented while keeping the “designed-to-degrade” philosophy. This would have to change and it’s an even bigger change than multiplying the tyre manufacturer. Also, the cost-cap is also a good reason not to dive into this. I would have loved to see Michelin taking over Pirelli and introduce long-lasting tyres but that is another story.

  8. Mercedes with bad concept and everything seems closer to success than Ferrari, who supposedly got it right.

    And the fact they re also close to Aston shows they wont get that much better changing the car. Red Bull have something beyond at hand.

  9. The FIA just has to give Max a couple controversial, well-timed penalties at tracks where it’s difficult to pass and the championship battle will rage on until the final two or three, assuming their car is strong enough where Perez will still be in position to win when he has his usual mid-season lull.

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