George Russell believes his performance in the Spanish Grand Prix showed Mercedes has halved the gap to Red Bull and Ferrari.
Starting from fourth, Russell climbed to third on the opening lap and even led for a spell after Charles Leclerc’s retirement, defending brilliantly from the two Red Bull drivers for a number of laps. Eventually he had to nurse his car home in a third place he deemed more genuine than his podium in Australia and says the signs are that a big step towards the top two has been made.
“It feels great to be on the podium and I think it goes to show the hard work and effort that’s gone on back at a factory, both in Brackley and Brixworth,” Russell said. “We’ve always said that you’ve got to be there at the end to pick up the pieces and pick up points, and especially on days like today it was incredibly tough out there for the cars, for the drivers. But I feel like we’re making progress and I think we, as a team, have turned a page. I feel like this is probably the start of our season now.
“I think we probably have probably halved the gap to those front-runners, compared to the rest of the season, and I think we know there’s probably more performance to find. It’s been a season of problem solving, as opposed to trying to find more performance and bring more performance to the car.
“I think we’ve now finally solved our issue and we can now focus on bringing more performance. So yeah, we’re six races behind but there’s no reason why we can’t claw this back.”
At one stage Russell went around the outside of Max Verstappen at Turn 1 to retain his position and the pair ran inches apart through the first three corners, something the Mercedes driver says was a satisfying fight.
“It was enjoyable. I think Max and I first raced each other back in 2011. So it was nice to have the opportunity to fight with him. And, you know, I’m here to win, I’m here to fight and I obviously wasn’t going to make it easy.
“I felt bad for him, because he obviously had the DRS issues and he was clearly the faster man today. But still, I think it was hard, fair racing. And that’s what we would like to see, and expect, in Formula 1.”