Russell ready to sacrifice part of F1 2023 for long-term Mercedes progress

Mercedes was looking to make a big step with its new W14, which unlike its predecessor is no longer crippled by porpoising, but Bahrain’s season opener soon established that the gap to Red Bull has increased again.

And with Aston Martin, which has closely followed Red Bull’s design philosophy, also proving quicker than Mercedes, it raised questions over the German squad’s decision to stick with its unique car design.

On Saturday night team principal Wolff admitted that he didn’t think «this package is going to be competitive», prompting what could be a radical design change.

While such a shift could take a lot of time and compromise the team’s results in 2023, Russell said he was ready to take a hit this year if it meant that Mercedes could finally be competitive in the longer term.

«We’re here to win,» Russell said after finishing seventh in Sunday’s Bahrain race.

«We obviously want to optimise 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 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 in the second half of the season or even if it’s looking towards next year, that’s maybe what we’re going to have to do, because clearly we are a long way behind.»

He added: «Nobody remembers who finishes second or third. 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.»

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Russell admitted Mercedes’ regression was a «big blow», just when the team was hopeful the mandated 15mm floor raise for 2023 would allow its design concept to show its true potential.

«We’re not going to beat around the bush: of course it’s a big blow for all of us,» he said candidly.

«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.»

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However, Russell doesn’t believe that abandoning Mercedes’ minimalist sidepod design for that of Red Bull’s concept is suddenly going to turn around the team’s fortunes, as the floor is a much bigger contributor to performance.

«The reason we’ve still got this skinny sidepod concept is 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.

«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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