Russell warns Mercedes cannot rely on others’ misfortune

Henry Valantine
George Russell on the podium. Baku June 2022.

Mercedes driver George Russell applauds while stood on the podium. Baku June 2022.

George Russell was understandably pleased to notch another podium finish in Baku, but warned that Mercedes need to start getting there on merit instead of profiting from retirements further ahead.

Both Ferrari drivers retired from the race in Azerbaijan on Sunday, with Carlos Sainz’s hydraulic issue followed by an engine problem for Charles Leclerc that ended his race 20 laps in.

Russell made the most of the problems Ferrari suffered to earn his third podium of the season, but Mercedes are still comfortably slower than the front-runners in single-lap and race trim.

Russell’s label has changed this season from being widely known as ‘Mr Saturday’ to reflect his impressive qualifying performances, to ‘Mr Consistent’ – reflecting the fact he is the only driver to score points in every race so far this season, finishing within the top five each time to boot.

He now sits a comfortable fourth in the Drivers’ Championship, and Russell echoed Max Verstappen’s sentiment that “you’ve got to keep scoring” to have a chance in a title fight, adding: “You know, this is a championship where you’ve got the chance to score every single race and it doesn’t matter how fast your car is, if you’re not scoring those points, then your tally is not going to increase.

“So, as I said here, great work from everybody back at the factories to deliver a reliable car – but we can’t keep on relying on others’ misfortune, and we need to find more performance. And that’s what everyone’s trying their hardest to achieve.”

Russell was suffering from the effects of the porpoising, or bouncing, that has plagued Mercedes all season long, but it was perhaps the worst it has been all season in Baku – with team-mate Lewis Hamilton seen struggling to get out of his car at the end, admitting “my back is killing me” midway through the race, and team principal Toto Wolff apologising for the car being a “sh*tbox” to drive at the moment.

While the 24-year-old has not been as vocal about his issues as the seven-time World Champion, he’s still feeling pain in his back himself – and like Hamilton, has set a target of the British Grand Prix in three weeks to hope Mercedes find a solution.

“I think the car has been feeling OK to drive, to be honest,” he said. “The balance is good. Just the challenge is just the bottoming, to be honest, I think it doesn’t matter what boat you’re in either, you’ve got the porpoising and you’re hitting the ground.

“And if you don’t have porpoising, you’re running the car millimetres to the ground, and you’re bottoming out. And I think, yeah, feeling it on the back at the moment.

“But nevertheless, as I said, we’ve got to keep on working hard to find more performance and understand what we need to do to unlock that. And yeah, I don’t think we’ll have any major updates or anything to try in Canada, but maybe for Silverstone, we’ll have a better idea.”