George Russell has expressed that he would be prepared to sacrifice part of his season if it meant Mercedes could be more competitive again in the future.
After a difficult season for the team last year – where it only won a solitary race and finished third in the Constructors’ standings – Mercedes was hoping to make a leap forward in 2023.
However, the team sustained an arduous opening weekend to the new Formula 1 season in Bahrain, dropping behind Aston Martin to fourth fastest in the pecking order.
The Silver Arrows were line astern in qualifying, but both ended up 0.7s behind the pole position time.
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton finished two places ahead of Russell in the race; however, the more experienced Brit still crossed the line 50.9s behind race winner Max Verstappen.
Following its agonising beginning to the latest F1 campaign, Russell has admitted he would be willing to go through a challenging testing period to aid Mercedes in getting back to the front.
Speaking after the race, Russell said: “We’re here to win.
“We obviously want to optimize every single result, but if you give me a choice between fighting and having a chance to win races, whenever that is, versus slow progress and never having that chance, you obviously choose one of taking those victories.
“So, if we want to sacrifice some races or part of a season to give ourselves a chance to get a car that can fight, whether it’s the second half of the season or even if it’s looking towards next year, that’s maybe what we’re gonna have to do because clearly, we are a long way behind.”
“Nobody remembers who finishes second or third,” he continued. “Second isn’t good enough. And if we need to make some drastic changes to give ourselves a shot at the second half of the year, whenever it may be, that’s what we’ll do.”
It was well documented during the early embers of last season that Hamilton underwent extreme testing set-ups at several weekends to try and improve Mercedes’ bleak initial outlook.
With Mercedes ending the season on a stronger note – leading to a 1-2 finish in Brazil – the German marque had been optimistic that its aggressive zero sidepod philosophy could be a winning one.
Despite the encouragement offered by not suffering a repeat of the porpoising problem from last year in pre-season testing, Mercedes appears to have stagnated relative to the competition.
Russell spoke honestly about the situation Mercedes is encountering, believing that the team remains in a stronger position than it was this time a year ago.
“We’re not going to beat around the bush, of course, it’s a big blow for all of us,” he said bluntly.
“We’re a long way behind where we want to be. I think the only positive to take away from all of this at the moment is that there’s no fundamental problem with the car other than it’s lacking downforce.
“And as silly as that sounds, that’s probably one of the easiest problems to solve, if you compare it to this time last year. We’ve gone from the car that was bouncing around the most to the car that’s probably bouncing around the least.
“Perhaps with the regulation change we’ve just gone a step too conservative in that regard and maybe we need to go back a few steps to gain some cheap downforce.”
After its Bahrain struggles provided it with a rude awakening, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff claimed the Brackley-based outfit would have to evaluate going in an alternative direction on car concept.
However, Russell has insisted that alterations solely to its sidepod concept would not necessarily yield immediate big performance gains.
“The reason we’ve still got this skinny sidepod concept is because we still believe that is best and, to be honest, I still believe that’s not going to transform our performance, if we came next week with a Red Bull style sideboard,” the Brit countered.
“I don’t think that’s going to suddenly find us half a second. I think the magic is done on the floor and the parts of the car that we can’t see.”
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