George Russell hails Mercedes upgrade impact with ‘best all season’ assessment

Thomas Maher
George Russell, Mercedes, 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

George Russell believes Mercedes' W15 upgrades have made the car the best it's felt all season.

The upgrades Mercedes has brought to Imola have been met with George Russell’s approval, with the British driver qualifying sixth.

Russell was the highest-placed Mercedes driver at the end of qualifying at the Imola circuit for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, and will line up in sixth place.

George Russell: Mercedes upgrades ‘directionally correct’

Mercedes brought through some upgrades for the W15 for this weekend’s action at Imola, including revisions to the floor body and fences in order to improve local aerodynamic loads to the diffuser and rear floor.

Revisions to the rear and beam wing have also optimised the downforce levels and efficiency for the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, with the beam wing tweaks aimed at improving how the airflow works between the upper wing and diffuser.

With several leading teams, including Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin bringing along updates, following McLaren’s tweaks for Miami, Russell’s time in qualifying was half a second from Max Verstappen’s pole position time and four-tenths behind the McLarens.

But Russell is confident the upgrades have sent Mercedes down the right development path, praising the handling of his car following the session.

“The car is feeling probably the best it has felt all season, to be honest, especially on such a challenging circuit like this,” he said, in response to a question from PlanetF1.com.

“I feel confident, we know it’s directionally correct.

“Everyone’s bringing upgrades, McLaren brought an upgrade a couple of races ago and it’s performing really well for them.

“Aston Martin brought an upgrade this weekend and it’s not performing so well for them.

“So it goes to show how difficult and complex it is for everybody.

“But we’ve got to believe that we can make an upgrade and develop in the right direction.”

George Russell ‘half a kilo too heavy’ for Imola GP

Having just missed out on landing the fifth fastest time in qualifying, Russell revealed that he is slightly over his own personal weight target for the weekend which may have played a part in missing out on a higher slot.

“I felt really happy, and felt really strong throughout qualifying,” he said.

“P6 was the maximum. It’s always annoying when it’s so close to the car ahead.

“I’m actually half a kilo too heavy this weekend, myself. You don’t think it’s ever going to make a difference but half a kilo would have put me P5, which would probably be P4 on the grid (after Oscar Piastri’s penalty) so I’m blaming my sandwich at lunch for that one grid position.

“I took satisfaction from that lap because it felt really well-optimised. It felt really strong, and the car felt great.”

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As for whether he feels Mercedes have turned a corner with their development path, and are now able to start chipping away at the deficit to the front, Russell said he and the team are looking to emulate what McLaren have achieved after transforming from one of the slowest cars on the grid to one of the quickest.

“We know where we are. It’s impressive to see what McLaren is achieving,” he said.

“They’ve made huge strides. They genuinely look like the fastest team right now. It’s motivational for the others.

“It’s hugely competitive, this sport, and it’s so complex.

“We know where we’ve gone wrong. Unfortunately, we’ve gone wrong one too many times in the last couple of years. We’ve got a clear direction where we need to sort of reel it back from the sort of overcompensation we made during this winter, but let’s see where it takes us.”

Pressed to explain what he meant by the team overcompensating in the W15’s design, Russell revealed the characteristics had swung from one extreme to the other in terms of feel.

“I said last year that we had one issue – all of the changes we’ve made, we’ve gone too far in the other direction,” he said.

“With this sport, there’s always a happy medium. And we haven’t found it just yet.”

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