Russell expects Hamilton to make big F1 comeback
George Russell has downplayed the fact that he beat F1 great Lewis Hamilton in his first season with Mercedes and fully expects him to come back recharged.
Russell was fourth overall last year, while F1 record holder Hamilton, with 103 wins and 103 pole positions, was sixth.
Russell’s performance surprised some observers considering he was joining from the struggling Williams team behind. However, he secured only pole positions and victories for Mercedes in Hungary and Brazil, and Hamilton failed to win a race for the first time in his F1 career until 2007.
“These stats against a guy like Lewis are totally irrelevant. He has over 100 poles and wins,” Russell said Thursday ahead of Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.
“The race pace is probably something we want to improve a bit and we probably improved it towards the end of the year compared to Lewis. But he’s just an animal and he keeps fighting. He’s fighting more and coming back. I think it will come
Both Mercedes cars suffered from a ground effect known as ‘porpoising’ for most of the last year.
Last week’s pre-season testing suggested that this issue was a thing of the past, with Russell looking forward to battling Hamilton without stressing his car.
“I’m excited about the challenge,” said Russell. “But in the end, both of us are looking for not just the team’s number one spot, but the top step on the podium.”
Both were feeling relaxed when they arrived at the Sakhir circuit on Thursday for media duties ahead of Friday’s first practice session. Russell gave him the thumbs up while Hamilton strolled the paddock in an eye-catching bright red outfit and red-framed sunglasses.
There were issues with the car’s balance and traction during testing in Bahrain, but Russell is confident these have been resolved.
“I had a really good time between testing and racing to analyze what happened,” he said. “There were some unexpected things going on with the car, but they were pretty easy to fix.[We]were just working a little bit on the wrong window and we were running with a different rear wing.” We did the Bahrain test just for that correlation work, but it wasn’t the optimum rear wing.”
Mercedes won a record eight consecutive constructors’ titles before Red Bull finished last year as Max Verstappen shattered the field en route to a record 15 wins and a second straight world title. .
“We have to trust in our process. Mercedes has built a car that has won eight consecutive world championships,” said Russell. “We’re basically getting all the same people out there. They haven’t just forgotten how to build a fast race car.”
But neither is Red Bull, with Verstappen saying during testing that the RB19 could be even better than last year’s car.
Russell tends to agree that Red Bull is ahead for now.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that Red Bull are in a league of their own in Bahrain this weekend,” he said. “It will probably be a great battle between (Mercedes), Ferrari and Aston Martin for second place. I’m sure we can close that gap as the season progresses.”