George Russell admits Mercedes ‘probably haven’t captured’ the floor changes ‘in the way others have’

Michelle Foster
George Russell gives an interview. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Losing ground to Red Bull over the winter, George Russell admits Mercedes “probably haven’t captured” the floor regulation tweaks as well as their rivals.

As last season’s W13 bounced from one track to another, Mercedes lobbied for changes as the team feared the effects porpoising would have on the drivers in the long-term.

That led to the FIA pushing through changes to the floor regulations, the teams having to raise their floor edges by 15mm as well as the diffuser throat height which effectively reduces the car’s downforce thus minimising porpoising.

But while Mercedes pushed for changes, and they weren’t the only team to do so, Russell admits they may have “overlooked” the impact of the revised regulations with this year’s W14.

Following a disappointing Bahrain Grand Prix, the team held talks where Russell revealed that questions of “what went wrong, how they went wrong, and what are we going to do to fix it” were asked.

The 25-year-old added: “We’re pretty sure of the direction we need to go down.

“There’s never any 100 percent certainty because if I’m being honest, sat here after Brazil [where he won last season], I would have said I’m 100 percent certain the path we’re on is the right path and all of you in the room would have probably believed it looking at the progression we’ve made.

“Something has changed over the winter, the FIA have changed the rules with the floor, we probably haven’t captured that in the way others have, we’ve overlooked this and we’re not where we want to be.”

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Conceding Mercedes “clearly missed something”, Russell says there was no finger-pointing during the recent meeting as everyone in the team – including himself and his team-mate Lewis Hamilton – at one point believed the car’s concept was going in the “right direction”.

“The conversations that have been had, many people accepted that these decisions weren’t the right ones,” said Russell.

“But nobody is pointing fingers and blaming them for making decisions that were made with the best intentions and the info we had.

“When it comes to car concepts, when it comes to decisions of where let’s say a team of 2,000 people are going to be heading, it’s never one person directing that.

“You’ve got probably your six senior technical people who work together with all the knowledge we have, with everybody who is beneath them, the knowledge that’s coming from the drivers, the work we’ve done on the simulator and those decisions are passed by and agreed upon by everybody.

“We were aware of the concept, Lewis and I, and we did believe that this was the right direction.

“But we as a team have clearly missed something that happened over the winter and we’re working as hard as we can to rectify that now.”

Mercedes have brought minor upgrades to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend in the hope of minimising some of the deficit.

But where they’ll end up come the end of the season, Russell says no one is setting out targets.

“I think we don’t really talk about results or what we can do in terms of where we end up in the championship,” he said as per The Race.

“We talk about what we can achieve in terms of bringing more performance back to the car, but the fact is we don’t know how much performance the others can bring.

“Because we’ve kind of overshot in a more conservative manner, perhaps there is performance we can add back onto the car quicker than you would do ordinarily in normal development.”

As for talk of changing concepts, the Briton admits that “doesn’t come without risks.”

“We all feel like we’ve got enough knowledge and information to say ‘we weren’t on the right track’ so the targets we set over the winter weren’t the right ones and we need to change lanes as soon as possible.

“Those decisions have already been made and we’ve already started working towards them as of probably Tuesday last week.

“How quickly that can be brought to the car, how quickly that can translate into performance, is another question.”