Russell: Mercedes’ W15 has “true potential” despite poor results in the first two races of the 2024 F1 season

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
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Despite admitting that the team is yet to fully understand their challenger for the 2024 F1 season, which has led to them “getting slower” as the weekend went on in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, George Russell believes there is some “true pace” and potential in the car that will be unlocked over the course of the season.

Russell finished the race in a disappointing sixth place, behind Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin and a long way back from any sort of podium-challenging pace, a stark contrast to a strong Thursday practice which saw him in second place, very close to the front of the field.

He followed Alonso closely after the safety car restart, but couldn’t do anything to get past the Spaniard, getting in and out of his DRS range several times during the race.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, the Briton was at a loss to explain why the team loses the edge it has on the practice sessions as the weekend progresses, but still pointed out that at least the W15 has some “true potential”, something that was never really visible with the cars from the previous two seasons:

“It was a long one because for 40 laps I was between 1.1 and 1.6 [seconds] behind Fernando [Alonso] and couldn’t really do a lot more.

“We’re still struggling to understand this car in all honesty because it shown true performance at points – in Bahrain we were P1 and P2 in one of the practice sessions, straight out of the box, here on Thursday we were quick – and we’ve kind of got a little bit slower as the weekend progressed.

“So we need to understand why that is and tap into the data to understand it further.”

When asked to expand on his comments, the one-time grand prix winner said the team’s simulation tools all indicated that they would be able to maintain their strong practice form come qualifying and race day – but that clearly wasn’t the case, and he’s keen to understand why that is – primarily putting it down to a lack of understanding of the brand new car for 2024:

“No, because we make all of the estimations of ‘there’s this much in the fuel, taking the fuel out, there’s this much in turning the engines up’ – and our quickest laps have always been on that Thursday, and we haven’t made the jump that you would expect to make come qualifying.

“I trust that we’ll be able to we’ll be able to get there but right now we need to really understand [the car] bit further.”

Russell’s comments came on the same day his seven-time world champion team-mate Lewis Hamilton said the Mercedes squad is still in the “same or almost the same” position as it was at the start of the ground-effect era, failing to understand its own car and make the necessary gains compared to those around them on the grid.

But the 26-year-old is adamant that the team will eventually “get there” in terms of car development and understanding in order to fight the cars around them over the course of the season:

“It’s 100% much nicer to drive there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “And it has potential. I think last year we never saw – maybe once or twice – glimmers of speed. But straight out of the box this weekend and in Bahrain we showed true pace, true potential in the car.

“We need to understand where that performance came from in those set sessions why it disappeared and how to sort of be there more consistently.

“It’s still only race two, there’s still so much understanding to be done, and I trust we can get there. But, of course right here, right now it’s a little bit frustrating, but I trust we’ll get there.”