Over a second down on Charles Leclerc in qualifying, George Russell fears that deficit may grow in Sunday night’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
Adamant there was cause for concern after pre-season testing, Mercedes’ rivals scoffed at the Brackley team’s claims as it wasn’t the first pre-season in which Mercedes talked down their chances.
But, after qualifying in Bahrain, it is clear to see that they weren’t bluffing.
Leclerc claimed pole position ahead of Max Verstappen while the best-placed Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton, was only P5.
As for Russell, he finished Saturday night’s action ninth fastest, out-qualified by his predecessor at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas who now races for Alfa Romeo, as well as the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and Fernando Alonso in the Alpine.
Russell fears it could be even worse for Mercedes in Sunday night’s Bahrain Grand Prix as he and Hamilton have to suffer through 57 laps in a porpoising W13.
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The 24-year-old explained: “The teams that are bouncing more cannot run the cars as close to the ground as they would like and they are missing out on performance so we don’t expect to be able to close the gap on Sunday to our competitors.
“We would absolutely love to be able to but I think that just isn’t really the case and, if anything, you might see the delta diverge.
“We’re doing absolutely everything we can at the moment to solve these issues. We’ve made some progress but we are a long way from where we need to be and where we know the potential of this car is at.”
Stepping up from Williams to Mercedes this season, wins and championship fights were the talk prior to pre-season testing.
Now it is all about that porpoising.
Mercedes have tried several fixes, the team testing different floor configurations in Friday’s practices but still could not find a solution.
Russell says every step forward is followed by “two steps back”.
“Obviously, P9 is much lower down than where the car is but we’re doing everything we can to try and get the car back to the front and fight the Ferraris and Red Bulls,” he said.
“I feel like we’re going one step forward then two steps back. We feel like we’re making progress but then suddenly we’re back into the same issues that we faced.
“It’s difficult because we’re so focused on solving the overarching issue of the car, it’s difficult to nail down all the details and fine-tune the thing.
“This is what it’s about at the moment, we know we want to be fighting for victories and we need to try everything we can to get there.”
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