Second place would be ‘huge achievement’ not ‘failure’ for Mercedes, say drivers

2023 Dutch Grand Prix

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Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell agree that securing second place in the championship would be major achievement for the team given their recent setbacks.

A record eight-year run of consecutive constructors’ titles for Mercedes ended last year when they were beaten into third place in the constructors’ championship. Mercedes won just a single grand prix, at the penultimate round, and finished behind Red Bull and Ferrari.

Despite being unable to offer any serious challenge for Red Bull in 2023, who have won every round of the season so far, Mercedes currently sit in second place in the constructors’ standings ahead of Aston Martin.

Speaking to media including RaceFans ahead of this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, Hamilton said Mercedes had made strong progress since beginning the season with a car outwardly similar to last year’s unsuccessful design.

“I think it’s a huge achievement and I think it’s something that I feel has been a little bit overlooked, if I’m really honest,” Hamilton said.

“Ultimately because we want to win, I wouldn’t say it’s been the most positive narrative. But I’m really proud of the team, the progress and the steps we have taken with the car. From feeling like an almost identical car to last year to making all the changes we have.

“There are some small adjustments we are making moving forwards over these next couple of races. We have some small bits added to the car this weekend. Absolutely every point of downforce, every little bit that we add makes a difference. So I’m super-grateful for everyone back at the factory for continuing to push even through the hard times and just staying focussed with the belief that we will get there at some point. Just churning away with the good work.”

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There has been intense competition behind Red Bull between Mercedes, Ferrari, Aston Martin and even McLaren, who joined the fight in the rounds leading to the summer break. Hamilton said it would be “pretty amazing” for his team to finish the season as best of the rest and has his eye on the runner-up spot in the drivers’ championship, currently occupied by Sergio Perez.

“For us to be second in the constructors championship – considering how others have started this year, like how McLaren are doing, their big turnaround, Aston Martin who came out of the blocks really great – I think it’s pretty amazing,” he said.

“That’s down to all these amazing people back at the factory and the crew that we have here – and also the drivers doing our job. My goal is to try and make sure that the team keep that second place in the championship and try to hunt down second in the drivers’ championship. That’s my goal – so that’ll be fun.”

Russell echoed his more experienced team mate’s view that Mercedes had more to celebrate than lament with their current championship position.

“I feel like as a team, we’ve gone strength to strength this season,” he said. “Obviously there’s a lot of expectations upon us going into this season and perhaps why people are calling our season a bit of a ‘failure’.

“Of course, it’s far from where we wanted to be – because we want to be fighting for championships – but to call P2 in the championship, 50 points ahead of P3 at the moment, a ‘failure’ is far from reality. We know we’ve got a lot to improve. We’ve made really good progress and I think going into this second half of the season, we can be there to hopefully pick up any pieces that fall our way.”

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Despite Red Bull looking unbeatable in 2023, Russell insists that an opportunity to fight for victory could present itself at any time.

“We just never know,” he said. “I think last year we had the mentality that Singapore would probably be our only opportunity in the second half to win a race and when we didn’t win in Singapore, it was a bitter disappointment and there was no expectation going into Brazil and we came away with the victory there. So we treat every race as an opportunity.”

Although his team are aiming to beat their rivals to second in the championship, Russell is cautious about suggestions that they have the second-quickest car on the grid behind the RB19.

“It’s really close between us, Aston Martin, Ferrari and McLaren at the moment,” Russell said.

“I think we’re probably the ones that are consistently there fighting between the second and third fastest team. But the team have done a really great job to maximise the points and as I said, delivering week-in, week-out so I’m not going to sit here and say we are the second-fastest team. I’m not too sure but I think we’re in a really strong position to secure that P2.”

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2023 Dutch Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
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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5 comments on “Second place would be ‘huge achievement’ not ‘failure’ for Mercedes, say drivers”

  1. James Allison making the difference, and these two.

  2. It might be realistic what they are saying, still I would rather hear it from neutral commentators than from people within a team that is chasing the nr1 position. Doesn’t sound like a good mindset.

    1. We’ll let me be your neutral commentator: 2nd in the championship is an outstanding achievement given they started the season with a lemon of a car. If Hamilton can get 2nd in the drivers’ as well that would be quite a feat!

      1. But they were second last year. They just remained where they were.

    2. I don’t mind them saying that, you have to be realistic about your expectations, there’s no beating red bull this year and if there’s ever a chance to win a race they’ll be there.

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