Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff has addressed the reasons for George Russell’s recent struggles, labelling the current generation of cars as being “on the knife edge.”
Russell replaced Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes last year and immediately impressed amid a challenging campaign for the then-defending World Champions in the new rules cycle.
With the German marque’s troubles ruling it out of title contention, Russell managed Mercedes’ sole pole position and race win en route to beating Hamilton in the standings.
After maintaining that edge over his team-mate through the first four qualifying sessions of 2023, Russell has failed to defeat Hamilton in qualifying since Mercedes debuted its heavily revised car at the Monaco Grand Prix in May.
Aside from lagging behind Hamilton, Russell has also been absent from Q3 in three of the past eight race weekends, dropping him 49 points behind his Mercedes partner.
However, Wolff has defended Russell’s slump in form, asserting that the Brit has been unfortunate to get caught on the wrong side of a troublesome Mercedes car.
“These cars are on the knife’s edge,” Wolff explained.
“You can quickly fall off it and lose the confidence. On the other side, if you’re within that corridor of sweet spot… having said that, that car [W14] has no sweet spot!
“But being more in that zone of understanding what it will do next, I think there’s a big difference and you can quickly be in either one of these situations, and obviously it goes against you.”
Mercedes Technical Chief Mike Elliott has reinforced the views of Wolff, detailing how tough it is for the drivers to get on top of the current crop of F1 machinery.
“I think these cars are hard to drive and they’re running close to the ground,” he noted.
“And it’s tricky to sort of find that right balance through the corner. It’s tricky to do [that] with the stiffness of the cars.
“George is a fantastic driver so I’m sure he’ll get what he needs to get out of the car fairly quickly.”
While the pecking order behind Red Bull has constantly changed in the rounds before the summer break, Mercedes has managed to establish a commanding hold on second position in the Constructors’ standings.
The Brackley-based squad currently possesses a 51-point lead over Aston Martin, who is a further five points clear of Ferrari.
Hamilton has excelled since Mercedes abandoned its ambitious zero sidepod concept, notching six top-four finishes in the seven rounds with the new-spec car.
During that run, the seven-time World Champion has also achieved three podiums and ended his elusive wait for a pole position on Saturday at the Hungarian Grand Prix.