George Russell believes that his Mercedes team are “definitely” closer to the fourth fastest Formula 1 team than to Red Bull or Ferrari, having been widely touted as the third fastest team.

Mercedes have gone into the first two races of the 2022 season seriously on the backfoot in comparison to its close rivals of 2021, Red Bull, and fellow front-running outfit Ferrari. New recruit Russell and seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton currently sit P4 and P5 respectively in the drivers’ championship with the team in P2 in the constructors’ standings.

The team’s place in the teams’ championship can be largely attributed to Red Bull’s double DNF in the first race of the season in Bahrain, with the Milton Keynes based squad only one point behind Mercedes going into the Australian Grand Prix.

Mercedes head into this weekend’s return to Australia already forty points behind Ferrari, however Russell is confident his team can stay in “touching distance” of the leaders once a “silver bullet” of pace is found for the W13.

“We’ve definitely got information we’re continuing to learn but at the moment we’re making baby steps and we need to make some leaps and bounds and we’re struggling to find that silver bullet to resolve our issues,” said Russell to written media. “I’ve got no doubt when we do that we will find a chunk of lap time but that’s easier said than done.

“It’s two races we’re definitely not out of it but for sure if we don’t manage to find some improvements there’s no way we’ll be in with a shot of fighting for this championship but we’ve definitely not given up – we’ve come away from the first two races as the third best team.

“I don’t know what the championship looks like but even if we continue like this for the next five, six, seven, eight races, we’re still going to be within touching distance I would say and there’s no reason why we can’t overturn it. So we need to see how things look by the time we get to halfway through the season and ultimately there’s no reason why until halfway through that everything [couldn’t have] changed,” summed up Russell.

Heading into the long-awaited race at the heavily revised Albert Park circuit, a track Formula 1 hasn’t visited since the beginning of the 2019 season, Russell was asked whether he feels that the pace of the car will improve this weekend and to clarify exactly what should be expected of the team.

“I think [the pace and results] will be very similar to be honest,” admitted Russell. “I don’t see any reason why we’ll make any strides forward. We’re definitely the third fastest team at the moment, closer to the fourth than we are the second so it’s going to be more of the same in the coming races.”

Mercedes will be hoping that the reconfigured characteristics of the Melbourne circuit, which may feature a record four DRS zones, alongside an expected upgrade package will begin to showcase a higher level of performance from the W13 in the hands of two of the championship’s most highly rated drivers at different periods of their careers.

The story was written by Danny Herbert

Here’s George Russell on team working around issues

Here’s Toto Wolff on Mercedes not enjoying fighting for scraps

Here’s Toto Wolff on Saudi Arabia pit issue

Here’s Toto Wolff on Mercedes PU and new parts