George Russell has tried out the new Mercedes upgrades out in the simulator, but is remaining tight-lipped about their potential.
Mercedes are set to roll out a very different W14 at this weekend’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, having opted to set out in a completely different design direction.
Identifying weaknesses as far back as Bahrain’s pre-season testing, Mercedes’s Andrew Shovlin said the team realised the original direction of the W14 was not going to be enough to challenge for the World Championship.
“If we continued on that same development direction, we wouldn’t end up in a position where we felt we could challenge Red Bull,” he said in the team’s Miami debrief.
“So it was around that time that we took some decisions on how we develop the car, how the car works aerodynamically, how we shape the characteristics of the car, so how it is in terms of handling.
“What we are going to be bringing to the track at Imola is the first step really of that work. This takes quite a long time to develop in the wind tunnel – you can’t just do these things overnight, but the Imola package is the first step in that direction.”
George Russell: Hopefully Mercedes can be closer at Imola
Speaking at the end of the Miami GP weekend, Russell downplayed the potential impact of what is effectively a ‘B-Spec’ upgrade coming to the W14.
“I have, but the sim’s not reality,” he said, when asked by Tom Clarkson and Pedro de la Rosa on the F1 Nation podcast whether he has driven the upgrades in the simulator.
“So I won’t give any secrets away. Don’t expect the world to change at Imola, Red Bull are still going to be the quickest. I don’t care where we are. We’re chasing them and we want to beat them.”
Having driven to a commendable fourth place in Miami, as Mercedes looked reasonably quick around the Hard Rock Stadium’s layout, Russell said the inconsistency of Mercedes’s car has made the start of the year particularly challenging.
“It was probably my most enjoyable race I’ve had since Brazil last year,” he said.
“I don’t have any explanations, to be honest. If we knew, we’d be able to deliver good performances every single session. I think F1 is so challenging at the moment because the cars are so complex.
“When you get in a sweet spot, everything comes alive. We didn’t do that in qualifying and we paid the price. Sunday was more of a normal performance, but we just need to find more overall lap time – it’s as simple as that.
“Hopefully, at Imola, we can be a bit closer to [Aston Martin]. But Red Bull are a long way ahead, and we need to sort that out and catch them up quickly.”
Pedro de la Rosa: George Russell is ‘unbelievable’
After Russell had walked away from the interview, De La Rosa revealed just how impressed he is with how Russell is faring against seven-time World Champion teammate Lewis Hamilton.
“He’s unbelievable. What he’s doing on a very difficult car, not this year but last year – I was shocked,” De La Rosa said.
“I thought that it would take him a while to get to the speed of Lewis and he was straight on it with a very difficult car, a bouncy car.
“More importantly than out-qualifying him, I think that, in some races, he’s even faster on race pace. I mean, they are very evenly matched and this is the beauty about these two drivers, and especially about George, because I think no one ever expected him to be this strong, this mature.
“Whenever he talks on the radio, he has this capability of reading the race, which not many racing drivers have. And they are the ones that make the difference at the end of the day.”