‘It would be foolish’: Lewis Hamilton and George Russell ahead of pre-season testing

2022 was the first time since the start of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014 that Mercedes haven't won the Constructors' Championship.

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are ready to put Mercedes back on top, with the Brackley-based team having officially completed their official shakedown test ahead of the 2023 season.

The Silver Arrows unveiled their new car – the W14 – on Wednesday, before completing some running across Wednesday and Thursday at the Silverstone National Circuit.

Mercedes have been tipped to be considerably closer to Red Bull and Ferrari this year, with the Germans having revealed a black livery for the forthcoming campaign, after returning to silver for 2022.

The Germans used a black livery in 2020 and 2021 to show their support in the fight against racism and discrimination, before switching back to silver last year.

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In a bid to save weight, they’ve returned to black this year, with the side not needing to paint over the majority of the carbon, saving them crucial pounds.

Russell and Hamilton both got their first chance to drive the car during the shakedown, with both of their initial reactions having been positive.

Despite the positive start, though, Russell isn’t wanting to label the team as title favourites just yet, with the former Williams driver warning that their rivals might have “found the same amount of lap time” as Mercedes.

“If we sit here now and say ‘we will win this or win that’ it would be foolish,” Russell told Sky. 

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“I think we can have expectations and hopes of how the car will feel and how the car will perform. 

“But if Red Bull and Ferrari have found the same amount of lap time that we have, we’re in the same position as we were last year. 

“You can’t be naive and think we’ll be right back there [in the title fight] because we just don’t know.”

Hamilton is incredibly excited for the new season to get underway and is a huge fan of the team’s livery for 2023.

The seven-time World Champion explained how the team focused on losing weight for this season, after having been “carrying extra weight” last year.

He’s hopeful that his “new toy” will be competitive and not have too many issues at the start of the season; however, the 38-year-old has admitted that should issues arise, then they need to be fixed “as early as possible”.

“This is one of the most exciting periods of time,” Hamilton added. 

“We have a great team of people who have worked hard to make today possible. We have a new car – the most exciting part, it’s like Christmas for the two drivers! We get to use our new toy and see what it’s like.

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“I love the black. Last year we were heavy, we were carrying extra weight and baggage which really held us back. The focus this year is to sacrifice the look for performance. It still looks great.

“Every second that we have on track will be critical. We have less time than ever before. From a driver’s perspective – understanding your tool, understanding how your body reacts, how you can work with your tool, the set-up, understand where the issues are so we can fix them as early as possible. 

“Hopefully there aren’t any – but there always are! It’s crucial. It’s crunch time.”