George Russell revealed that Mercedes have met the targets they have set over the winter break, but the problem was that these targets were incorrect.
Mercedes retained their slim sidepod concept for 2023 with their new Formula 1 car, the W14, and while they announced after preseason testing that they have eradicated the bouncing from the new car’s DNA, they ended up sacrificing too much performance doing so.
The Black Arrows were a massive one second off the pace of Red Bull in the season opening race in Bahrain, the reigning Champions even managing their pace during the race, prompting Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to express his concern that the energy drinks outfit have more pace to unleash and claimed they will run away with this year’s Title.
Speaking to the media in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, George Russell was quizzed as to whether Mercedes missed their pre-season targets, or even set them too low; he responded: “The targets were met. But clearly the targets were incorrect.
“I think, when you look at the W13, we were clearly too aggressive with the car design and the bouncing, and that was our big limitation. Now, fast forward 12 months, we wanted to be in a position where we’re not experiencing any of this; and we’re probably equally overshot in the opposite direction: compromised too much performance, too much downforce for the lack of bouncing,” the Briton explained.
“To learn that; probably the changes that the FIA implemented over the winter solved the majority of our problems. That being said, we can probably recover some of that lost performance from being too conservative.
“Is it the one second we’re looking for compared to Red Bull? No, it’s not. Do we think we’re on the right track with our philosophy? Probably not either,” Russell admitted.
No blame culture within Mercedes
Some reports in the media claimed a meeting was held at Mercedes HQ in Brackley to discuss the grim situation of the team, with Technical Director Mike Elliott reportedly given an ultimatum to sort things out.
Russell referred to that meeting; he said: “We all came together. The team came together on Tuesday, last week, and had some very good, honest, open conversations.
“A lot of the questions were answered as to how we got ourselves in this position in the first place. What are we going to do short term, medium term to get out of it? What path do we want to be on? And those changes are already in place, of getting on the track that we believe is going to bring us back to victory,” he revealed.
While Hamilton recently asked for accountability regarding decisions made on the development of the new car, Russell insists there is not blame culture within Mercedes. He said: “The culture that the team has is an incredible one.
“Because I think if these issues were faced in different teams, there’d be so many people worried about their jobs, and you’d have a huge amount of pressure in that regard.
“Whereas we are one team, we all believe in one another. And there are no concerns of that. People are there to speak open and honestly. There’s no blame culture. All of these decisions were made collectively. Obviously, Lewis and I have had many conversations with the senior technical leadership of the team, but those decisions ultimately, are down to the brains of the organizations, and that’s where the top engineers, and top aerodynamicists come together.
Strategic decisions on car development not made by one person
Pushed to reveal whether he also thought there should be accountability; Russell took a different path than Hamilton; he commented: “The conversations that have been had, many people accepted that these decisions weren’t the right ones.
“But nobody is pointing fingers and blaming them for making decisions that were made with the best intentions and with the info we had.
“I think when it comes to car concepts, when it comes to decisions of where a team of 2000 people are going to be headed; it’s never one person sort of directing that, you have got your probably senior, six technical people who work together with all the knowledge we have with everybody who’s beneath them. The knowledge that is coming from the drivers, the work we’ve done on the simulator.
“Those decisions are sort of passed by and agreed upon by everybody, and we were aware of the concept, Lewis and I, and we did believe that this was the right direction.
“But as I said, we as a team have clearly missed something that happened over the winter. And we’re working as hard as we can to rectify that now,” the winner of the 2023 Sao Paulo Grand Prix maintained.
(Additional reporting by Agnes Carlier)