George Russell says he is surprised by being second in the F1 championship, but adds that he has no interest in fighting for Top 5 with Lewis Hamilton.
Russell went under the nickname of “Mr. Saturday” during his latter times at Williams but his 20022 performances so far could see him labelled “Mr. Consistent”, if he can keep the mojo going despite the tough time for Mercedes. He is one of three drivers to have scored points at Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia along with Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon.
Despite his big move, the season has been a touch disappointing for Mercedes so far. They are there but lagging behind the leading lights in Ferrari and Red Bull – where the latter’s reliability troubles has helped the German manufacturer to keep its nose ahead.
At the same time, Russell is second in the drivers’ championship having outscored teammate Lewis Hamilton in the last two races. It is early days of course but it’s still admirable for him to be sitting where he is, even though the car is not up there.
“I think I am pleasantly surprised to be P2 in the championship but I think it’s credit due to the team for giving us so far, a very reliable car and we’ve got to be there at the end to capitalise from these results,” said Russell. “It’s definitely not based on pace but I think it’s been a respectable start to the season in terms of how we’ve managed to optimise our lack of performance.
“And I think every race we’ve done, we have truly maximised the result possible. I don’t think we could have achieved a higher result at any of the circuits as a team and that is, I guess, a silver lining. But unfortunately, there’s nothing substantial in the pipeline anytime soon. It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s going to take a number of races.
“I think there’ll be little things, there’ll be incremental steps but we recognize that our rivals are going to be doing the same so it may not be clear to the outside world that we’ve made progress because Ferrari and Red Bull are going to be making progress as well,” summed up Russell.
During the off season and pre-season testing, Mercedes advised they were struggling with the dreaded porpoising that all teams endured. While the world thought they were sandbagging, it was proved not to be. For them, it is a slow process, proverbial baby steps but they have the personnel so they should get it right before long.
Despite the lack of pace, as Russell noted, reliability is helping them. He earned his first podium with Mercedes and it was a step in the right direction psychologically. But it’s a podium just, not a win and for them to not being the leading lights so far is an oddity. This is why the Brit is not interested in fighting his team-mate for fifth and sixth.
“These small things in the scheme of things don’t mean a lot really,” said Russell. “Obviously, everybody wants to finish ahead of their teammate, but Lewis and I have no interest in battling it out for P5 or P6. And we want to work together, to claw that gap back. So, there’s no hard feelings if he’s ahead of me, there’s no hard feelings if I’m ahead of him, and we’re not too concerned about that at the moment”.
“So it’s quite a strange feeling for me, to be honest, because we have such high expectations from all of us. Whereas you know, previously, in my first couple of years that was everything. Because we weren’t really fighting for points, we weren’t fighting for much, that was the only satisfaction you could get, is your results based on your teammate. But here we have a bigger picture”.
“And the long game we need to play is to catch these guys up because we’re here to win,” summed up Russell. They are winners, their hybrid era record speaks volumes in both Championships. They did say they would struggle and they have to an extent but despite Hamilton’s glitch at Jeddah they have been there or thereabouts in reality.
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