Mercedes concept change still necessary despite gains – Russell

George Russell has been delighted with the gains made by Mercedes in the last two GPs

George Russell has been delighted with the gains made by Mercedes in the last two GPs

George Russell believes Mercedes’ decision to change the concept of its W14 is still necessary despite the recent gains made by the team.

Following the opening qualifying session of the season in Bahrain, team principal Toto Wolff effectively wrote off the car, making clear a new development direction would be taken.

At that stage, Mercedes’ persistence with its innovative ‘zero-sidepod’ design which raised eyebrows when it was unveiled at the start of last season, had seemingly backfired.

Even Russell suggested that Mercedes had been taken down the wrong path with regard to development by his maiden F1 victory in the penultimate race of last season in São Paulo.

Since then, there has been talk from Wolff about the gains made in the wind tunnel as Mercedes ‘turn the car upside down’ in a bid to extract “the goodness” they know exists.

Melbourne one of Russell’s best F1 weekends

That was underlined by Mercedes’ performance over the Australian Grand Prix weekend as Russell and team-mate Lewis Hamilton were second and third quickest in qualifying, with the latter finishing second in a chaotic race.

Unfortunately for Russell, after leading the race for the opening eight laps after beating polesitter Max Verstappen off the line, his race ended with a blown engine.

Assessing what was primarily a positive weekend with the exception of the final outcome, he said: “From a team perspective, for sure.

“I felt like (the) Saudi (Arabian GP) was probably on a par with my best race weekend in F1 in Brazil last year, and again (last) weekend.

“I feel really comfortable in the car. The team is giving me the right tools and we get the set-up in the right window week in and week out. We’re ticking all the boxes.

“I feel like there’s nothing really more that we can be doing.”

Outlining why his pace is currently so good, he added: “I’ve been working really hard with my engineers to get the most out of the set-up, and I feel like the last two (grand prix) weekends, we’ve really put the car in a really great window.

“And we’ve been migrating a little bit away from what our simulations have been telling us. That was perhaps a reason why the pace was so poor in Bahrain.

“With the knowledge I have now, I think we probably could have had the car in a very different window in Bahrain to have more performance, so we kind of need to look and understand why.

“But the sim is telling us one thing, and then we’re kind of going in a slightly different direction.”

Mercedes not in F1 to make up the numbers

Fernando Alonso had suggested over the weekend in Melbourne that Mercedes was pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes with the complaints about its car.

Russell, however, insists the comments have been genuine, and that its decision to pursue a different development direction is entirely valid given its overall aims.

“It’s definitely still necessary,” said Russell

“The gains that we’re seeing at the moment are going to bring some decent performance.

“The fact is, we’re here to win. We’re not here just to be the best of the rest or half a second behind Red Bull.

“Our fight is with Red Bull, and we may have been quicker than Ferrari and Aston (Martin) (in Melbourne), but we’re still clearly a long way off where we want to be.”

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