George Russell: Mercedes yet to understand pace swings

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Mercedes' George Russell at the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps, August 2022. Credit: PA Images
Mercedes' George Russell at the Belgian Grand Prix. Spa-Francorchamps, August 2022. Credit: PA Images

Mercedes’ George Russell has said his team are still trying to figure out why their pace is so inconsistent over a weekend.

Mercedes came away from last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix with a fourth place, courtesy of Russell, after Lewis Hamilton retired on the opening lap due to damage from a collision with Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.

Russell even looked capable of potentially wresting away the final podium place from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz as he came home just 2.3 seconds behind the Ferrari after a tense final stint saw him close down a 10-second gap.

It was quite a turnaround from their troubled qualifying, as Hamilton and Russell finished in seventh and eighth and almost two seconds off the pace set by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

As for why Mercedes seem to blow hot and cold in terms of their pace, Russell said it’s an issue the team haven’t yet figured out.

“It’s definitely been a bit of a theme for us this season,” he said.

“We’re still yet to fully understand why we have such a big swing, to be honest.

“The swing is probably less compared to Red Bull. But, when you look at it compared to the midfield, we’re often being out-qualified by an Alpine or a McLaren and even Alex [Albon, Williams] was very close to out-qualifying us last week.

“But then, in the race, we showed some really strong pace, I was pretty disappointed not to be able to get the third position as I thought, had I done things slightly differently, it would have been possible. We just need to overcome our single-lap struggles.”

Did a podium go begging at Spa-Francorchamps?

Russell was asked whether he could have taken the third place away from Sainz, had he done anything differently on track. Having made his final stop four laps after Sainz, the British driver said he could have been more circumspect in chasing down the Spaniard.

“I feel, on my last stint, I went out pretty hard and probably didn’t have any juice left in the tank with the tyres when I caught up to Carlos,” he said.

“I think we had enough pace to maybe manage the tyres slightly more and maybe get to him a lap or two later, but still have the tyres remaining to challenge for that podium.

“We caught him with four or five laps to go and hindsight is an easy thing, but I think we’ve still gotta be relatively happy with how the Sunday panned out, but we just need to understand where all that performance went on Friday and Saturday.”

What are Mercedes’ prospects for Zandvoort?

The venue for this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix is quite different to Spa-Francorchamps, given it’s a compact, medium-speed circuit that leaves little margin for error.

With Mercedes’ pace inconsistent, even across one weekend, Russell was reluctant to make predictions for what’s going to happen this weekend.

“It’s a shorter lap, so therefore, the gaps won’t be as big, I think,” he said.

“I’m sure Max [Verstappen] and Red Bull are going to be in prime position, and they’re going to be very competitive. We’ve got reason to believe that it may be slightly better than Spa, but I think Spa was also a circuit that brought out the worst in our car.

“So, to be honest, we’re always going to have an open mind now.”

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