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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Russell laments Mercedes’ “substantially worse” pace in Austria

George Russell says Mercedes’ pace was “substantially worse” than anticipated in what Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff reckoned to be a “bruising” 2023 Austrian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton led team-mate George Russell for a 7-8 result at the Red Bull Ring. Seven-time champion Hamilton finished 39 seconds behind runaway victor Max Verstappen, who might have crossed the line a further 20s ahead had he not made a late pitstop to successfully take the bonus point for fastest lap away from Red Bull stablemate Sergio Perez.

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Hamilton, who struggled with car balance and copped a 5s penalty for exceeding track limits that was served at his pitstop, was even radioed by Wolff to stop complaining about his W14.

This team result came despite Mercedes bringing a radical upgrade for the recent Monaco GP, which led to a double podium in Spain ahead of Hamilton finishing third in Canada.

Russell said the drop back down the order caught the team by surprise as the pace was “substantially worse” than predicted.

He told Sky Sports: “I'm sure we'll get to the bottom of it. But we still have the same car as we had two races ago in Barcelona when we were flying. So, the only thing that's probably different is the tyres. Something we need to understand.

“It definitely doesn't feel as we want it to. The car's moving around a lot, a little bit worse than all of the other circuits. But the pace was substantially worse than we were expecting.”

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

Mercedes finished directly behind two powertrain customer cars, as Lando Norris ran to fifth for McLaren ahead of Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso.

Russell, who with Alonso was the only driver not to be flagged for exceeding track limits during the 71-lap race, said in the media pen: “We took a big step backwards, and Lando and McLaren were a big surprise for us. So, they clearly got it right.

“We have a fast car in certain circumstances. We just need to understand why we didn't this weekend.”

Wolff, meanwhile, declared the outing to be “bruising” for his eight-time constructors’ champion outfit. The Austrian said: “It was a bruising day. We couldn't make the car quick.

“We saw it from Friday onwards that we were lacking a couple of tenths or a bit more and that was the case today.

“The swings are quite interesting that one weekend it's us who are the first challenger [to Red Bull] and then it's Ferrari, and then it is Aston Martin and this time we were on the back end of that group.

“You’re sitting there for 90 minutes trying to optimise the strategy or getting the best support to the drivers, but if there's just no inherent pace, that's a tough 90 minutes for all of us.

“I think we were equal with some of the good guys in the high speed, but the car was never in the right place. We suffered from all of the conditions from understeer to oversteer. It was never any good.”

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