Mercedes ‘a number of races’ away from F1 car fix


Mercedes can only fight to be the third-fastest team on the F1 grid, says George Russell, as its car problems persist

Side of George Russells Mercedes W13

Florent Gooden / DPPI

There is no quick fix to the flaws in this year’s Mercedes F1 car, George Russell has said, warning that it will take “a number of races” to develop the upgrades he needs to fight at the front.

After Friday practice sessions where the car was bouncing, lapping at midfield pace and looked difficult to drive, Lewis Hamilton was 13th fastest and a gloomy-looking Russell 11th.

“We’ve gone from left, right and centre with the setup and all have resulted in a similar outcome,” he told Sky Sports. “[We’re] quite a long way off the pace. We are porpoising pretty bad. It’s something we have to deal with for the time being.”

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Mercedes hasn’t brought any significant upgrades for the Australian Grand Prix, as it continues to search for a permanent solution to the bouncing at high speed. It is currently reducing this porpoising by running the car higher and sacrificing ground effect downforce.

“We’re a long way behind Ferrari and Red Bull,” said Russell at the pre-race drivers’ press conference. “I think we were probably further behind them in Jeddah but when we had things more optimised in Bahrain, we were still half a second/six-tenths behind so we need to obviously close that gap

“We do believe there is a solution and we do believe there’s a lot of lap time on the table once we optimise that. We’re not here scratching our heads.”

In previous years, Mercedes would have been able to throw the might of its resources behind development to get it back on track as soon as possible. But the cost cap, which stands at $140m per team this year, is forcing the team to work at a slower pace, only pushing ahead with upgrades when it’s sure that it will work, said Russell.

“It’s going to take time and I think we just have to be disciplined and patient. We are so far behind and because of the cost cap we can’t afford just to throw things at it, trial and error at race weekends. We need to trust the process. And we’ll bring the upgrades when we have total faith and confidence they will do as we expect. You know, that’ll be a number of races before we start seeing that.”

Lewis Hamilton in practice for the 2022 Australian GP

Porpoising remains a problem in Melbourne

LAT via Mercedes

After the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Mercedes chief technical officer James Allison said that he hoped to get this year’s car back to the front of the grid in “two to three races” but Russell’s comments suggest that nothing is expected soon.

Lewis Hamilton adopted a more positive tone, saying that Mercedes has been making small improvements at each race and hoping that Albert Park’s four DRS zones will enable him to “race harder”.

However, judging by the pace shown in practice, he’s once again likely to be racing Alfa Romeos, McLarens and Alpines rather than the frontrunners.

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“There’s nothing that’s going to really put us in the fight with those guys at [the front],” said Russell when asked about his prospects for this weekend. “We’ve just got to make sure that we maximise our result which is to be the third-fastest team, making sure none of the midfield cars sneak in between us and just gathering those points while we can. This is going to be the case for a number of races to come now.

“We absolutely know why we’re off the pace and we know what we need to work on to improve that and having that knowledge having that understanding of what the issues are and having the belief that we can solve it is quite an exciting place to be because it gives us all something to go out [and fight for] but we do appreciate that our rivals will be continuously improving.

“Even if we improve there’s no reason why they wouldn’t improve them as well. So it’s gonna take time.”