Formula 1: George Russell says Mercedes will be strong ‘from race one’ in 2023

Mercedes driver George Russell expects the team to be “in a much stronger position from race one” in the 2023 Formula 1 world championship.

Russell finished fourth in the drivers’ standings, two places and 35 points above team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

“They haven’t forgotten how to build a fast race car,” said Russell. “We just got it wrong this year.”

He told BBC Radio Norfolk: “We got the philosophy wrong. We went down a route which turned out to be the wrong route.

“Sometimes it takes you a long time to dig yourself out of that hole. Now I feel we’ve dug ourselves out of that hole and we’re building on top of that.

“We are a step behind Red Bull and Ferrari and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do – but we’re definitely going to be in a much stronger position from race one next year than we were this year.”

‘With Mercedes, you expect victories’

King’s Lynn-born Russell joined Mercedes for the 2022 season, replacing Valtteri Bottas, after beginning his F1 career with Williams.

And he achieved seven other podium finishes as well as his maiden victory, despite the team being unable to match the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari for much of the season.

“When you join a team like Mercedes you’re expecting victories. I felt ready to fight for race wins and championships this year but you’ve just got to manage your expectations,” Russell said.

“You’ve got to change those sights slightly and it’s been really intriguing for me this year, seeing how the team deal with this situation.

“I’m here for the long haul and even though I wanted victories and [to be] fighting for that championship in 2022, as a team these struggles are going to set us up for the coming years.

“I hope I look back in 10 years’ time and say the 2022 season was a positive one in the journey.”

Despite outperforming seven-times world champion Hamilton, for whom five second-place finishes were his best of the campaign, Russell is aware he has to keep “raising the bar” in terms of his own performance and contribution to the team.

“If you’d told me at the start of the year that I’d be finishing ahead of Lewis Hamilton [in the drivers’ standings], I’d have been very happy because nine times out of 10 that probably means you’re going to be world champion,” he said.

“It’s a little bit frustrating that this year wasn’t that year. We were both fighting for P4, P5, P6 and we don’t want to be in this position, so I’m not going to walk away from this season with huge amounts of pride because I finished fourth in the championship. I’m here to win.”

‘Lewis is the greatest of all time’

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton

Russell’s win in Brazil was achieved by holding off Hamilton over the final 10 laps after the team told them they were allowed to race.

And despite that, he insists they have built a good relationship over the course of the season.

“It takes some time whenever you join a new team, regardless of who your team-mate is, to embed yourself and gain that trust and confidence within the whole organisation,” he said.

“It’s been a good journey for me, being team-mates with him. He’s the greatest of all time so I’m in a very privileged position to go up directly alongside him but also learn from him.”

He added: “I’m really excited for 2023. I’m still going to be trying to improve my driving, what I do on and off track, and hopefully we’ve got the car beneath us to fight for the championship.”

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