Russell: Mercedes “substantially worse” than expected in Austria

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George Russell suffered a lacklustre seventh-place finish at the Austrian Grand Prix and lamented the Mercedes’ lack of raw speed.

The British driver finished 48 seconds behind the race winner Max Verstappen. The margin could’ve stretched to over a minute had the world champion not pitted for a fastest lap attempt with three laps to go.

Hamilton struggled with his W14 throughout the 71-lap race, picking up a five-second time penalty for track limits early in the race. He got a further ten-second one post-race to drop behind his teammate in the final classification.

Russell explained that the Brackley-based team’s lack of pace was surprising at Red Bull Ring.

“I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it. But we still have the same car as we had two races ago in Barcelona when we were flying. So, the only thing that’s probably different is the tyres. Something we need to understand.

“It definitely doesn’t feel as we want it to. The car’s moving around a lot, a little bit worse than all of the other circuits. But the pace was substantially worse than we were expecting.”

Mercedes brought a sizeable upgrade to Monaco earlier this season, scoring consecutive podiums in Spain and Canada but took a step backwards in Austria.

They finished behind two customer cars, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and McLaren’s Lando Norris, both using Mercedes power. The 2022 São Paulo Grand Prix winner admitted his surprise at the pace of his fellow Brit.

Russell said: “We took a big step backwards, and Lando and McLaren were a big surprise for us. So, they clearly got it right.

“We have a fast car in certain circumstances. We just need to understand why we didn’t this weekend.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff underlined the underwhelming weekend the German team endured in Styria.

“We saw it from Friday onwards that we were lacking a couple of tenths or a bit more and that was the case today.

“The swings are quite interesting that one weekend it’s us who are the first challenger [to Red Bull] and then it’s Ferrari, and then it is Aston Martin and this time we were on the back end of that group.

“You’re sitting there for 90 minutes trying to optimise the strategy or getting the best support to the drivers, but if there’s just no inherent pace, that’s a tough 90 minutes for all of us.

“I think we were equal with some of the good guys in the high speed, but the car was never in the right place. We suffered from all of the conditions from understeer to oversteer. It was never any good.”