George Russell downplays the very fact he beat Formulation One nice Lewis Hamilton of their first season at Mercedes and totally expects him to return charging again.
Russell was fourth total final yr in comparison with sixth for Hamilton, the F1 record-holder with 103 wins and 103 pole positions.
The performances of Russell shocked some observers contemplating he joined from a Williams group used to languishing on the again. However he secured Mercedes’ solely pole place and victory — in Hungary and Brazil — whereas Hamilton did not win a race for the primary time in a F1 profession relationship to 2007.
“These stats towards a man like Lewis are fairly irrelevant. He is achieved 100 and extra poles and victories,” Russell stated on Thursday forward of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday.
“Race tempo is perhaps one thing I wish to enhance barely, and I in all probability improved that in the direction of the tip of the yr in comparison with Lewis. However he is simply an animal and he retains on combating, he retains on going, and he by no means provides up. So I feel he will come again combating much more.”
Each Mercedes cars struggled for a lot of final yr with the bottom impact referred to as “ porpoising,” an aerodynamic challenge the place automobiles hop and bounce on the observe.
Preseason testing final week advised the issue is a factor of the previous, and Russell is trying ahead to a battle with Hamilton with out stressing in regards to the automotive.
“I am excited to have that problem,” Russell stated. “However finally the 2 of us are searching for the highest step on the rostrum, not simply the No. 1 spot on the group.”
Each appeared in relaxed temper as they arrived on the Sakhir circuit on Thursday for his or her media duties, forward of Friday’s first follow session. Russell gave a thumbs up whereas Hamilton strolled via the paddock with an eye catching all-red outfit and red-framed sun shades.
There have been points with the automotive’s steadiness and traction throughout testing in Bahrain, however Russell is assured these have been resolved.
“We had a extremely good time between the check and the race to analyse what occurred,” he stated. “There have been a couple of issues happening with the automotive that we did not fairly count on however we have been capable of resolve fairly simply. (We had been) simply working barely within the fallacious window, we had been working with a unique rear wing within the Bahrain check only for some correlation work, and that wasn’t an optimum rear wing.”
Mercedes gained a document eight straight constructors titles earlier than Red Bull ended that run final yr when Max Verstappen crushed the sector on his technique to a record 15 wins and a second straight world title.
“We have to belief in our course of. Mercedes have constructed a world championship-winning automotive for eight seasons in a row,” Russell stated. “We have nonetheless basically received all the identical guys there, they usually have not simply forgotten the best way to construct a quick race automotive.”
However neither has Crimson Bull, and Verstappen stated throughout testing the RB19 may very well be even higher than final yr’s automotive.
Russell tends to agree that Red Bull is ahead, for now.
“It is undoubtedly truthful to say Crimson Bull are in a league of their very own this weekend in Bahrain,” he stated. “It’s going to in all probability be a pleasant battle for second place in all probability between (Mercedes), Ferrari and Aston Martin. I completely consider because the season progresses we’ll shut that hole.”