Mercedes is excited about how competitive it could become in the second half of the season after seeing its progress rewarded with a double podium in the French Grand Prix, according to George Russell.
Lewis Hamilton finished second ahead of Russell as the Mercedes pair beat Sergio Perez on pure pace, while also benefiting from Charles Leclerc crashing out and Carlos Sainz starting from the back of the grid.
Although Russell acknowledges Leclerc and Max Verstappen have a clear advantage at present, the fact Mercedes is fighting with the second Ferrari and Red Bull cars is giving reason to be optimistic for what’s to come.
“I think the gap to Max and Charles, they do an extremely good job, the two of them,” Russell said. “And we’ve still got a couple of tenths to find in race trim; we still need to understand what’s going on with our qualifying performance but as a team, we feel like we’re making progress.
“We feel like we have a direction we can develop a car in now, and that’s something it took us probably a good eight or nine races to truly understand what makes this iteration of car go fast. So, I think we’re excited for the second half of the season.”
Russell got the better of Perez after a close fight in the closing stages of Sunday’s race, after initially being frustrated that he was not handed the position when he forced the Mexican to cut the chicane.
“It was pretty entertaining from those last final 15-20 laps, pushing as hard as I could to stay within reach … and then do the overtake on Checo.
“I was pretty disappointed not to be able to keep that position. I thought it was my corner, I was down the inside I had my front wheels in front of his rear wheels. And to the letter of the law, it was my corner and he squeezed me a bit onto the curb. He went wide and kept his position.
“So, I guess we’ll talk about it after but nevertheless these things have a way of working themselves out and the VSC restart was pretty tasty.”
The Briton finally got the better of Perez by jumping him when the Virtual Safety Car period ended after a delay, but says that move was easier than it looked.
“It felt pretty straightforward to be honest! I just gunned it when the lights went green, and got the run on him and went around the outside at Turn 14.
“You sometimes have to try and pre-empt it a little bit. And I think when you’re on the race on your own, you’re just playing it safe and you’re leaving a little bit of margin.
“I just got a really nice run, timed it perfectly. I think he had to brake a little bit as maybe he was a bit too quick. So, with him braking, with myself accelerating, it just gave us that closing speed. It was pretty sweet but those laps after weren’t easy.”