Mercedes taken ‘down the wrong path’ by maiden F1 win – Russell
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 18th March, 2023 - 3:00pm
George Russell believes his maiden F1 victory last season took Mercedes ‘down the wrong path’ in opting to persist with its car concept.
Russell enjoyed a stunning weekend in São Paulo as he followed up his sprint race win by taking the chequered flag in a grand prix for the first time.
At that stage, it appeared as if all of Mercedes’ hard work throughout the season in attempting to eradicate the porpoising issues that had blighted the first half of the campaign following the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations had paid off.
The belief was that Mercedes’ ‘zero-sidepod’ concept was the right one after all, placing it in a position to pursue additional performance over the winter to hopefully claw its way closer to reigning champions Red Bull this year.
Such hope, however, has since been proven to be misplaced following the team’s performance in pre-season testing and subsequent season-opening race in Bahrain.
Suggested to Russell his win in Brazil flattered to deceive and that the car concept was a winning one, the Briton replied: “Perhaps Brazil did lead us down a bit of a wrong path because we did feel like we were improving as a team, that we were going in the right direction.
“That needs some analysis because we did improve throughout last year, there’s no two ways about it, and especially towards the end of the year, we truly thought we were onto something.
“So the W14 (this year’s car) is probably a more extreme version of the car we had at the end of last year.
“Clearly others have gone in different directions. We’ve gone further in that direction, and it wasn’t the right one.”
FIA change not helped Mercedes
Russell feels the rule tweak over the winter, with the FIA raising the floor by 20mm to additionally help eradicate the porpoising and bouncing, has further forced Mercedes into making a wrong turn.
“There’s never any 100% certainty but after Brazil, I would have said ‘I’m 100% certain the path we’re on is the right path’,” added Russell.
“All of you in the room would have probably believed it as well, looking at the progression we’ve made.
“So something’s changed over the winter. The FIA has changed the rules to the floor.
“We probably haven’t captured that in the way that others have. We’ve overlooked this and we’re not where we want to be so there’s never 100% certainty.”
Mercedes meeting sparks major plan
The result in Bahrain, with both Russell and seven-time F1 champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton comfortably adrift of Red Bull, and race-winner Max Verstappen in particular, sparked a cards-on-the-table meeting at the team’s headquarters in Brackley two days after the race.
Russell is convinced the right messaging emerged from it, and with a clear plan in place to tackle the team’s problems.
“Is it one second we’re looking for compared to Red Bull? No, it’s not,” addressed Russell. “Do we think we’re on the right track with our philosophy? Probably not either.
“So the team came together on Tuesday last week and we had some very good, honest, open conversations.
“A lot of the questions were answered as to how we got ourselves in this position in the first place; what are we going to do short term, medium term to get out of it? what path do we want to be on?
“Those changes are already in place, to get us back on the track that we believe is going to bring us back to victory.”