George Russell says Mercedes must understand why there are notable gaps in performance between himself and Lewis Hamilton.
The 2023 season certainly hasn’t gone to plan for George Russell. Aside from Mercedes’ failure to build a car capable of fighting with Red Bull, the 25-year-old finds himself significantly behind Lewis Hamilton in the standings.
Whilst there is no shame in a 7-time World Champion outscoring you, Russell certainly isn’t experiencing the same success he enjoyed last year.
In qualifying, the two Silver Arrows can hardly be separated. Hamilton enjoys a slender 10-9 advantage in their head-to-head. On race day, however, the 38-year-old is consistently securing more substantial results.
Podium finishes are the most glaring example of this, with George Russell only taking a single top-three finish for Mercedes in 2023.
As with any competitive driver, such a discrepancy is a source of frustration. More than this insists Russell, it is necessary to understand why performance can fluctuate so drastically across the Mercedes garage.
He identifies this as an important area to rectify for next season, which he explained to the media:
“That’s definitely something we’ve noticed. Lewis and I, over the course of the year, I don’t think we’ve ever been on the same pace,” he explained at Interlagos.
“I think over the last two years, our qualifying record is almost the same. But it’s either one driver is 4 or 6 tenths ahead, or it’s the other.
“It’s something we’re trying to understand… It’s something I’m trying to figure out myself.
“And I’m sure he’s trying to figure out as well.”
Russell’s comments pinpoint a relevant area for the German outfit to scrutinise. Especially in the early stages of the year, Mercedes have been prone to their drivers experiencing peaks and troughs.
Much of this is attributed to the W14’s characteristics, which didn’t provide the necessary stability for drivers to push with confidence. However, the situation has improved in this regard.
A series of floor upgrades have been introduced in the second half of 2023. These have been accompanied by improved results and – per driver feedback – better handling. Lewis Hamilton has touched upon this issue recently, describing the COTA updates as one of the most notable changes to the car over the last two years.
It doesn’t seem Russell is finding his feet in the same way as his teammate. It would be unfair to suggest the 25-year-old lacks pace. Perhaps the more accurate interpretation is that – with an elite teammate – any mistakes or off-weekends are costly.