In the last trio of races, Mercedes‘ George Russell achieved a fifth position and two sixth-place finishes – a somewhat lacklustre performance in contrast to his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, who secured both a podium placement and two fourth-place results. These results come as Mercedes finds itself in a fierce contest with McLaren and Ferrari for the esteemed title of the second-fastest team.
Russell, since the Austrian Grand Prix held early July, has been vocal regarding his struggle with the W14, remarking multiple times that “things aren’t clicking” between him and the vehicle. Toto Wolff, the team boss, attributes Russell’s fading form to the challenge in finding the ‘sweet spot’ in this year’s model.
Wolff explained: “These cars are on the knife edge, and you can quickly fall off it and lose the confidence. And on the other side, if you’re within that corridor of a sweet spot – although having said that, that car has no sweet spot – but being more in that zone of understanding what it will do next, I think there’s a big difference.”
Mike Elliot, the Chief Technical Officer, seconded Wolff’s sentiments, remarking on the strain of driving these ground-effect cars that must be run close to the ground. Elliot noted that achieving the right balance throughout a lap is a complex task. Nevertheless, Elliot showed faith in Russell, stating: “George is a fantastic driver. I’m sure George will get what he needs to get out of the car fairly quickly.”
Russell dismissed the notion that the vehicle’s design alteration implemented in Monaco is the root of his issues. He observed little change in the car’s feel compared to the beginning of the season. His only podium finish, a third place in Spain, occurred after this revamp. When questioned on whether the upgrades were impacting his performance, he responded: “No, I don’t think so. I think it’s just in your rhythm. The car’s feeling pretty similar to what it did at the start of the year. Some small changes, but nothing to do with the updates.”
Post-Belgian Grand Prix, the last race before the summer break, Russell conveyed renewed optimism about the second half of the season after figuring out why recent set-ups had not been delivering results. He expressed: “I’d say the first six races were really strong, the last six races not so much. [We have] a few ideas why that is. This weekend has validated probably the direction we’ve taken with the set-up in recent races hasn’t been the right one. It definitely can be tweaked.”