George Russell claims that he does not anticipate Mercedes to be in the race for the win when the Formula 1 season begins in Bahrain next week.
Based on the results of the first two days of preseason testing, Russell claimed Red Bull was the squad to beat.
He stated: “We are confident that at some point, we’ll have a vehicle that can engage in that conflict.
“I think it could be a stretch to say if we’ll have it next weekend in Bahrain,” said the speaker.
Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion for Red Bull, was looking impressive at the Sakhir circuit for a second day in a row when Russell made his remarks.
Russell remarked, “They appear to be very stable and powerful.” “Clearly, Max is working exceptionally well, and the automobile appears to be very sturdy.
“Thus, I believe that next week will be a stretch practically. Yet, given Mercedes’ strength and their rate of advancement, there is no reason why we can’t eventually get at that destination this year. So, yes, unquestionably. That is what I think.”
Although fuel loads, engine settings, and other factors can significantly affect lap times, preseason testing results are infamously inaccurate as predictors of form.
Verstappen finished the day in second place behind Zhou Guanyu of Alfa Romeo, who used the softest tyres late in the day to simulate qualifying.
Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin was third fastest, ahead of Nyck de Vries of Alpha Tauri, who also performed a qualifying-style run on the softest tyres.
In the Mercedes, Russell was the 13th-fastest driver, and teammate Lewis Hamilton was the 15th.
Mercedes enters 2023 following a challenging year that saw the end of their streak of eight straight constructors’ titles since 2014.
They only placed third behind Red Bull and Ferrari, winning one race, the penultimate race of the season in Brazil with Russell.
Yet, according to Russell, the team is in a better position than they were at this time last year, when they learned during preseason testing that their car had severe aerodynamic bouncing, also known as porpoising, which hurt their season.
According to Russell, “the entering phase [to the corner] has been enhanced.” “You can see from the onboards and videos that we are having some balance issues, particularly in the middle of the track.
“But, I believe the balance is probably simpler to achieve than the one we had the previous year. Hence, even though it’s still a drawback, I believe it’s a useful issue to have.”
Toto Wolff, team owner, claimed that “basically” the porpoising was over. He continued, “The car is out of balance this morning and we just didn’t find the set-up for these hot conditions.”
Red Bull and Ferrari competitors are “quick – no surprise there,” according to Wolff, but he also stated there is “a feeling of exhilaration since we got it wrong last year.”
McLaren is likewise downplaying its expectations for the beginning of the season.
Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown of McLaren Racing stated: “We are aware that we had development goals that we hadn’t achieved. It was preferable to us to be open about that.
“We have a lot of development coming, just like everyone else. We are therefore encouraged by what we see in the near future, but I believe that we will start the first race outside of our predicted targets, making it difficult to really predict where we will start from.”
Day two of Bahrain’s preseason testing, fastest timings
1 Alfa Romeo Zhou Guanyu (Chi) 1 minute 31.610 seconds
Two minutes and 31.650 seconds, Max Verstappen (Ned), Red Bull
3 Fernando Alonso (Spa) 1:32.205 Aston Martin
Alpha Tauri 1:32.214 Nyck De Vries (Ned)
1:32.466 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger)
Ferrari 6 Carlos Sainz (Spa) 1:32.486
Williams 1:32.549 for American competitor Logan Sargeant.
1:32.725 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
9 Australian Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:33.175
Alpine 10 Pierre Gasly (Fra) 1:33.186
1:33.442 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas, 11
Alpine 1:33.490 Esteban Ocon (Fra) 12,
Mercedes-Benz 13 George Russell (GB) 1:33.654
Red Bull 14 Sergio Perez (Mex) 1:33.751
1:33.954 Lewis Hamilton (GB) Mercedes
16 Lando Norris (GB) 1:35.522 McLaren
Alpha Tauri 1:35.708 by 17 Yuki Tsunoda (Jpn).
* = time set on the gentler C4 tire; all other times use the C3 tire (mid-range in grip and durability)