‘It just feels horrible’: Russell laments W13 despite outperforming Hamilton

George Russell has been superb since his arrival at Mercedes at the start of the 2022 Formula 1 season.

George Russell is very much turning any doubters into believers this year after some terrific performance in the early going of the 2022 season with Mercedes.

Russell was signed from Williams this season after scoring four points finishes and a podium in 2021, and he also stood in for Sir Lewis Hamilton in Sakhir in 2020.

The 24-year-old looked on for victory that night, but a botched pit stop and a slow puncture ultimately denied him the win having been out-performing Valtteri Bottas.

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Last year though, much attention was paid to McLaren’s Lando Norris, who scored four podiums while out-qualifying and out-racing team-mate Daniel Ricciardo 15 times.

The 22-year-old almost took his maiden victory in Russia after securing his first-ever pole, but strategical errors in changing conditions put him off the podium in heart-breaking fashion.

Nonetheless, his performance that weekend made commentator Jack Nicholls suggest that he was the better option for the Mercedes drive than Russell.

“If I’m Mercedes… and I have a free choice in that second seat alongside Hamilton, I think I’m picking Norris over Russell after this year,” he said on the BBC Chequered Flag podcast.

Former Formula 1 driver Jolyon Palmer also believed that Norris’ “unbelievable” display in Sochi in 2021 epitomised a driver who is putting himself in the conversation for the best in the business at present.

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“The way that he held off Lewis Hamilton at the end of that Sochi race until the strategy and the tyre choice got away from him, was unbelievable,” explained the former Renault driver.

“For a guy that has never won a race, to have a seven-time World Champion breathing down his neck in a Mercedes, then it starts raining, and he’s still off the road a couple of times, scrabbling around.

“But keeping Hamilton, we all know how good he is in the wet, behind him, it was really legendary stuff I think from Norris.”

“I wonder if Norris this year has put himself in the top bracket? Alongside Lewis and Max potentially when you look at the job he has done against Ricciardo.

“Even in the last races Norris was quite a way ahead of Ricciardo, he just had really bad luck on the closing stages, otherwise he would have had fifth in the Championship.

“And this is Ricciardo, seven-time winner now an eight-time winner, this is a guy that everyone thought could be a champion in the top car, but Norris has done such a great job.”

Russell, however, has proven in the opening seven rounds of 2022 that he is the perfect fit alongside Hamilton at the German outfit.

He has out-performed the seven-time champion in all of the last six races – albeit some of that has been down to some good fortune – and as of qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, he now leads the one-lap battle 5-3.

The former Williams driver’s two podiums have helped him get 34 points clear of his team-mate in the Drivers’ Championship so, while Hamilton may have struggled to get to grips with the W13 so far, there is no doubt that a larger portion of the credit has to be given to Russell’s tremendous displays.

After qualifying fifth in Baku on Saturday, the 24-year-old revealed that “porpoising” that Mercedes have suffered this year has made life incredibly difficult down the straight, but in the corners, the balance seems to be there – indicative of progress at least.

“To be honest, it truly is just not going fast enough,” Russell told Sky Sports.

“The feeling from within feels okay other than down the straights and every single bump is the most rigid I’ve ever felt from any race car before.

“I can barely see the braking zones, it’s so bumpy down those straights and it just feels awful from within.

“But through the corners itself the car feels good and so we know it’s not a balance thing, getting the car in the right window with the setup, it’s more fundamental; we don’t have the downforce.

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“We’re balancing a lot of limitations to try and get the downforce; we know there’s a lot there but we don’t know how to extract it.”

While Russell took fifth in qualifying in Baku, Hamilton managed P7.

The young Brit scored another podium, coming home in P3, while Hamilton ended up one place behind.