Mercedes has been under scrutiny during Bahrain testing as it seeks to recover from a 2022 campaign hurt by porpoising and drag that caused its fall to third in the points.
Initial feedback from Russell and Lewis Hamilton has been that the new challenger has wayward car balance, but that this is far easier to solve compared to the “alarm bells ringing” in 2022 as Mercedes has made a “step in the right direction”.
Russell explained the mid-corner handling is where the balance struggles are most exposed, as the car loses grip and is overworking the tyres in the hotter temperatures.
Asked by Autosport if Russell’s desire for a more predictable car had been fulfilled, the Briton said: “The entry phase has been improved.
“I think it’s no secret when you’re watching the onboard videos that we are struggling a little bit with the balance, struggling a lot in the mid-corner.
“But I think it’s a balance that is probably easier to solve than what we had last year. So even though there’s still a limitation, let’s say it’s a good problem to have.
“Definitely in terms of feeling, it feels a step in the right direction. Compared to this time 12 months ago, things are running a lot smoother.
“When we were here last year, there were a lot of alarm bells ringing with porpoising. We weren’t sure how to solve it, we were a bit lost.
“Things have been running much smoother, reliability has been strong so far. For sure, we’ve got things we need to improve with the car.
“But, generally speaking, we are where we would have expected to be at this time of year.”
George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images
Russell played down his team’s chances for the season-opening round in Bahrain but expects Mercedes to take the fight to defending champion Red Bull later in the year.
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Elaborating on the balance headaches, Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff said: “You can see the driving, leaving [tyre] marks on acceleration.
“It’s hot and we just didn’t find the right set-up for these conditions, which is part of the learning, I guess, with a new car.
“It definitely is [concerning] because it’s not the driver who’s overdriving the tyres or pushing it. It’s the car that doesn’t give him enough grip from the rear.
“This is something we need to sort out over the course of the journey today. We’re still hiding a little bit. You need to wait for the three days of running.
“Also, when the softer tyres come on to the car in the afternoon, which is more representative conditions for Bahrain.”