George Russell has admitted that Mercedes look off the pace but have backed his team to make that up over the course of the season.
Mercedes finished P13 and P15 on the second day of testing in Bahrain with Russell seeing his time in the car cut short due to a hydraulics issue.
Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was in ominous form, finishing top in the morning session with only Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu beating him in the afternoon.
As such, Russell admitted that the team looked as if they were “behind” Red Bull but were confident that Mercedes would be able to make up that time as the season progressed.
“I wouldn’t say [we are] on the back foot,” he told F1.com. “I think this team has a history of being very good at development throughout a season.
“I think it’s important that you don’t throw everything into one basket when it comes to delivering, let’s say, that optimum package for race one but making sure you’ve got a package that you can easily develop from and maybe find greater performance later down the line.
“So if I had to tell you right here, right now how it is probably going to pan out next week, I reckon we are going to be a little bit behind Red Bull. They look in a very strong state at the moment but I think we haven’t unlocked everything yet. I’d like to think eventually we’ll be catching them back up.”
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Despite seeing his time out on the track cut short by approximately 1.5 hours, Russell said it was a problem that could have happened to anyone and not something that was causing the team great concern.
“It’s one of those things that happens here and there and can happen to anybody but it isn’t a cause of major concern for the rest of the test,” he explained.
“Unfortunately, we had the issue this afternoon so we lost a lot of running but I think we’ve uncovered some interesting things in the data that hopefully means we’ll find some more lap time.”
Although Russell will have been disappointed to see his W14 parked on the side of the track, he will have at least sought encouragement that he was able to stand next to the car without incredible back pain as Mercedes look to have solved the porpoising issue.
“I think so far, from what we’ve seen. the bouncing is definitely more under control than this time last year that is for sure,” the 25-year-old said.
“So my back is in a bit of a better place and less headaches than for myself and Lewis but also all the team had this time 12 months ago.”