George Russell says Red Bull and Ferrari’s pace during Formula 1 pre-season was not exceptional, but Mercedes is further behind where it expects to be.
Max Verstappen set the fastest times of testing on the final afternoon in Bahrain, while Ferrari has been quick and consistent throughout the six days of pre-season running.
By contrast, Mercedes struggled to show any headline pace in Bahrain as it fought with the handling of its car – particularly porpoising as it tried to lower the ride height – but Russell believes fixes would put his new team right in the mix.
“I don’t think they’re exceptional, I think we’re probably not as competitive as we’d like to be honest,” Russell said. “The Ferrari and Red Bull are in the natural position and we’re a step… their delta from the front to the midfield and to the back is probably correct, we’re just a little further behind than we’d like.
“I believe the guys are going to get to the bottom of it, I think there is potential there, but we just need to figure a way to unlock that performance.”
Although Russell hopes Mercedes can find fixes in the few days before the first race, he says the length of the season means it won’t be panicking if it takes a while longer.
“It’s pretty clear where we’re limited, you’ve only got to watch the videos and you see us bouncing a lot, it’s not putting the car in the right window. The team are working incredibly hard to try and find solutions for this, we’ve yet to find one, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be able to find one ahead of next week or later in the season, this is a long game, I do believe the performance is there somewhere, we’ve just got to find it.
“I think it just depends how hard you’re pushing the car really, and we’re trying to get every last bit of performance out of it and just trying to test those limits, but it’s definitely bouncing around from within.
“It’s not the comfiest in all honesty, but I don’t really care about comfort if the performance is there, but at the moment the performance isn’t there. We do seem a step behind our rivals, and we do have a lot of work to do between now and next week to understand, because in every condition the Red Bull and Ferrari seem a step ahead of us.”