Why a competitive Spanish GP may not be good news for Mercedes

Michelle Foster
George Russell up close in the press conference. Spain May 2023

Mercedes driver George Russell up close in the press conference. Spain May 2023

On the podium at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, George Russell says Mercedes were led astray by that result with the Briton adamant the team won’t fall for it again this year if they have a good weekend.

This weekend’s grand prix at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona marks Mercedes’ second outing in their heavily revised W14.

Introducing a new sidepod concept in Monaco, as well as changing the car’s floor and front suspension, the Brackley squad believes they took a step in the right direction but one that Lewis Hamilton concedes was not as big as he’d hoped.

However, given the nature of the Monte Carlo street circuit, Mercedes were in part left in the dark as to the true performance of the upgrades. That, tradition says, should be made clearer at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix with the Barcelona circuit known for being a designer’s dream as its mix of high and low-speed corners gives them a good picture of the car’s balance.

Russell, though, has been quick to remind Mercedes that, last season, it didn’t work out like that.

The Briton finished the grand prix in third place behind the Red Bull team-mates with that giving Mercedes a false sense of accomplishment. He won’t fall for that again this weekend.

“I’m excited for this weekend,” he told the media in Spain. “It’s definitely a challenging start to the season.

“I think now these next five races or so you’ll get a better picture of where the car truly is. And the order will be in a bit more of a settled position.

“But, you know, we’re not going to judge everything based on this weekend.

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“We know last year we had a really competitive weekend in Barcelona, I think I was on the podium, Lewis was really strong in the race after a puncture, and we came away thinking, ‘you know all of our problems are solved’.

“And we got to the following couple of races and learned that wasn’t the case.

“So you know, that’s Formula 1. I’m sure we’ll probably have a slightly more competitive weekend here in Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily back.”

But what he would at the very least like to do is leapfrog Ferrari.

Although Mercedes beat Ferrari at the Monaco Grand Prix that was largely down to strategy with the Brackley squad’s W14 slower than the SF-23 in qualifying.

“I think when you look on Saturday performance, we’re certainly behind Aston Martin, Ferrari, sometimes the Alpine as well,” he said.

“Looking at Sunday we’re a little bit closer to Aston Martin. It’ll be a good test this weekend.

“I think we can jump ahead of Ferrari, close that gap to Fernando [Alonso] as he is definitely very fast, close the gap to Red Bull, and get P2 in the Constructors’.”

Mercedes, bagging a double points haul in Monaco, trail Aston Martin by just a single point in the standings.