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Formula 1

Mercedes ‘definitely behind’ two rival F1 teams at the moment

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

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New Mercedes Formula 1 driver George Russell believes his team is “definitely behind” rivals Ferrari and McLaren after two days of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Lando Norris’s McLaren and the two Ferraris had locked out the opening day of the test before Charles Leclerc headed the timesheets on day two – but all of this came with the widespread understanding that the laptimes recorded were largely an irrelevance.

However, Russell indicated that his Mercedes team – which is currently fourth-fastest after two days – is aware it has some catching up to do.

“We’re seeing some interesting things out there,” Russell said. “That’s what testing is for.

“Some teams are looking pretty fast, a red team [Ferrari] and an orange team [McLaren] in particular look very, very competitive.

“Let’s see what tomorrow brings and what we can do between this test and Bahrain.”

Asked how Mercedes compared so far to those two, he said: “Certainly not ahead – pretty sure of that. They seem to have things well under control and they are on top of everything and they look very strong, low fuel and high fuel. And with the tyre management.”

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Test One Day 2 Barcelona, Spain

He did then caveat it with “who knows?”.

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said Russell’s part of Thursday was actually “more productive” compared to the “difficult morning” the team had with Lewis Hamilton driving – which featured a suboptimal balance and was curtailed by a sensor issue.

“We’ve still got plenty of issues to work on from a performance point of view but we are continuing to learn with every run which in turn will make us faster,” Shovlin said.

Wednesday pacesetter Norris had made it clear that he took no joy whatsoever in going fastest and felt it was representative of absolutely nothing – and in fact, suggested that the MCL36 did not have “amazingly fast” underlying pace as it stood.

And Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz put it like this: “With my car, just by adding fuel or taking out fuel, I can go three or four seconds faster or slower.

“Where do I stand in that window, and where all the others stand, it’s impossible to predict.

“Times… when you’re two tenths off Daniel [Ricciardo’s McLaren] this morning, having three or four seconds of [possible] margin up or down, it’s impossible to know.”

Asked what he could say to Ferrari fans about the team’s testing performance so far, he said: “That they can be happy that the team has done a reliable car so far, and that they [should] give us time to go in search for performance, because we were nowhere near there yet. Be patient.”

Motor Racing Formula One Testing Test One Day 1 Barcelona, Spain

Russell, however, did not shy away from making at least an initial comparison, albeit well-aware that the cars will be developing quickly from here on out.

“We all know we’re on different [run] programmes but we definitely know from the average of all the different runs we’re behind them at the moment,” he said of McLaren and Ferrari.

“Let’s wait and see. The championship is not won in Barcelona winter testing. It’s certainly been an intriguing two days.”

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