Are Mercedes back? George Russell responds after best result of F1 2024

Thomas Maher
George Russell, Mercedes, 2024 Canadian Grand Prix.

George Russell believes Mercedes has made a significant step forward with its recent upgrades.

Having taken pole position and contending for the win in Canada, can it be said that Mercedes is now back and capable of race victories?

George Russell claimed Mercedes’ first pole position of 2024 in Montreal, in unusual circumstances as he and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set the exact same lap-time – Russell claiming the better grid slot by dint of having set his 1:12.000 before Verstappen managed it.

George Russell: Pace increase hasn’t been a surprise for Mercedes

Russell duly led the opening laps of the Canadian Grand Prix, and remained a contender for the victory throughout the entire race, battling with McLaren’s Lando Norris and the Red Bull of Verstappen throughout.

With Russell using the hard tyre to storm past teammate Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages, he ran out of time to put Norris under pressure for second place, and the British driver admitted afterward that he’d felt disappointed with errors he made in battle that cost him time and positions.

But Russell also said that he was pleased to be able “to be disappointed with P3”, and the fact Mercedes had been quick throughout the entire weekend was great cause for optimism.

The big question mark is whether or not Mercedes can now be said to be “back” as contenders, having struggled to unlock the performance of the W15 during the first third of the season. A hefty upgrade package has been rolled out to the car in recent races, which have notably taken the car forward – but does Russell feel confident enough to declare the team is back to near its best?

“You know, I think Red Bull have had, you know… It’s no secret they’ve struggled a bit with their car these last three races,” he told media after the chequered flag in Montreal.

“So I think we need to see how their performance turns out in Barcelona, which is a little bit more of a conventional circuit.

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“But this pace increase that we’ve seen from us this weekend, it hasn’t been a surprise to us because all the numbers back at the factory told us we’re going to be finding a big chunk of performance with these upgrades. So Barcelona is going to be interesting for everybody, but I’m confident we can be in the fight.”

With the battle at the front of F1 in 2024 particularly close as Ferrari and McLaren have snaffled wins away from Red Bull, Mercedes’ seeming ability to join in this battle is giving Russell plenty of grounds for optimism.

But the British driver said the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix will be the big tell, as the fast and flowing circuit lends itself to the expected strengths of the Red Bull RB20. It’s for this reason that Russell believes the Milton Keynes-based squad will remain a step too far for the leading three pursuers.

“I think Red Bull have struggled a little bit the last couple of races, yet they’ve still won two of the last three,” he said. So I expect them to probably take a small step when we go back to the European races on more conventional circuits. But I really think our performance step is true and it’s real. And I think we can be in this fight with McLaren. Let’s hope we can continue being in the fight with Max. And let’s see with Ferrari, they obviously had a bit of an off weekend.”

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