Russell denies Hamilton’s claims of big set-up differences between the Mercedes cars at F1 Chinese GP: “We’re pretty similar on the set-ups”

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team
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The Chinese Grand Prix has proven to be a turbulent journey for Mercedes so far. Lewis Hamilton’s trajectory went from a strong SQ and finishing second in the Sprint race to a disappointing 18th place start in the main race.

Meanwhile, George Russell faced his own challenges, missing out on SQ3 and was forced to settle for eighth place on the grid for Sunday.

Reflecting on his session, Russell admitted losing a valuable lap time in Q2 due to a red flag caused by Carlos Sainz’s crash, leaving him with only one set of new soft tires for the crucial final part of qualifying.

The 2022 São Paulo Grand Prix winner was just over a tenth off the Ferraris after his only new tyre run in Q3.

“It was a bit of a shame in Q2 because my first lap was strong enough for P3, until the last corner when Carlos brought the red. And then you needed to use another set of tyres and then only had one [new] set in Q3.

“At the end of the day this is where we are at the moment as a team. If you nail it, you’ll be at the front of that group. If you’re on the back foot, you’ll be at the back of that group.

“And that’s where we found ourselves the last couple of races.”

After his dissapointing session, Lewis Hamilton stated there was a big difference in the set-ups between the two cars.

However, Russell downplayed that and expanded on how they are trying to test and understand things to be in much better shape next year.

“No, I mean we’re pretty similar on the set-ups.

“We both went in a similar direction. There was a small difference. But yeah, directionally very similar between the two of us.

“But we both made big changes from the sprint race. And that is If we optimise everything this weekend, maybe we’d have finished P3, P4, P5 in qualifying. But we still wouldn’t be content with that.

“And we want to fight for victories and championships at hopefully the minimum next year. And sometimes you need to sacrifice in the short term to make some greater gains down the line.

“We are still trying to find the development path we need to be on to make some big steps. And that’s just where we are at the moment.”

Photo Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

When asked about Hamilton’s earlier statements about driving the car on a knife-edge, Russell affirmed how challenging the W15 can be, considering the amount of changes the team is attempting to maximise their results every weekend.

But he stressed the importance of continuous improvement and experimentation to propel the team forward.

“Yeah, I think it was very challenging out there. I almost lost it in Q1 on my fast lap. It’s not easy to drive for sure.

“And of course when you make these big sets of adjustments straight into qualifying, it does take some time to adapt to it.

“So, as I said, it’s not been a smooth couple of races for us. But we just need to keep on working and keep on trying things. And try and make some big strides later down the line.”

Russell noted Mercedes’ stronger race pace compared to McLaren and Aston Martin but acknowledged the gap to front-runners Red Bull and Ferrari. He reiterated the Brackley-based team’s dissatisfaction with their current performance and their commitment to closing the gap.

“I think that’s just where we are as a team at the moment. We’re in that fight.

“We know we have a faster race car nine times out of ten we do qualifying car.

“In the [Sprint] race today we were quicker than Aston. We were quicker than McLaren. Maybe a small step behind Ferrari.

“That’s been a small trend over the last three years, where we’ve been slightly in the back foot on a Saturday and we come forward on a Sunday. Tomorrow is a new day.

“But as I said, we’re not content with where we are. We’ve got a lot of work to do. And we’re all in this fight for the best of the rest.”

After getting out front in the Sprint early on and Fernando Alonso proving to be a roadblock for the Ferraris, Sergio Perez and Lando Norris, Lewis Hamilton finished P2 to Max Verstappen.

Russell says it shows Mercedes can finish on the podium if they get track position through qualifying, but he admits nobody can be particularly happy with that considering Red Bull’s level of pace.

“Lewis proved it this morning. If you can get on the right side of that qualifying group and gaggle of cars, we can go on to score a podium.

“And the potential was there in Bahrain. Lewis did it this morning. If that was a main Grand Prix, he would have still probably finished P3.

“And then obviously today’s been a tricky one. So it’s not easy for anybody. And I think Ferrari aren’t content. Aston aren’t happy.

“Everybody wants to be fighting for victories. And right now, no team is doing a good enough job bar Red Bull.”