George Russell has denied that Mercedes is currently the clear “second fastest team” in Formula 1, despite it occupying the runners-up position in the standings.
While Red Bull has proven untouchable to win all 13 races to be held to this point in 2023, the pecking order behind the reigning champions has continuously changed.
Aston Martin began the campaign as the Austrian outfit’s nearest contender, with Fernando Alonso recording six podium finishes across the opening eight rounds.
But as the development race intensified, Mercedes and Ferrari became a bigger threat in the European rounds, while McLaren’s mid-season resurgence enabled Lando Norris to scoop consecutive podium finishes at the British and Hungarian Grands Prix.
However, Mercedes has been able to open up a healthy 40-point advantage over the chasing pack led by Aston Martin, who lead an inconsistent Ferrari by a further 14 points.
Nevertheless, Russell believes that the German marque’s position in the standings is reflective of the team maximising most weekends rather than possessing the outright second-fastest car in the field.
“It’s really close between us, Aston Martin and well… four teams, Ferrari and McLaren at the moment,” Russell acknowledged ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix.
“I think we’re probably the ones that are consistently there fighting between the second and third fastest team.
“But the team have done a really great job to maximise the points and as I said, delivering week in [and] week out so I’m not going to sit here and say we are the second fastest team. I’m not too sure but I think we’re in a really strong position to secure that P2.”
Upon F1’s return from the summer break last weekend at the Dutch Grand Prix, Russell was aiming to score only his second podium of the year after qualifying third.
However, the Briton’s race was undone in the opening stages when Mercedes delayed bringing both drivers in for the Intermediate tyre as rain arrived at Zandvoort.