Russell: ‘AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo are on our pace or even quicker’

George Russell has reiterated that Mercedes are on the back foot after a stuttering day on Friday at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

George Russell has expressed his frustration at the fact that everything Mercedes try to resurrect their issues is not working as planned, and agrees with team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton that there are some midfield teams matching their pace.

Mercedes put 88 laps together during Friday’s practice sessions in Bahrain during the opening weekend of the 2022 season and, while Russell ended both sessions fourth, Hamilton slumped to seventh and then ninth.

They also seem to still be falling foul of the “porpoising” problem encountered during pre-season testing due to the new technical regulations, and Gary Anderson has suggested that this is in part owed to their decision to stiffen their suspension rather than introduce more of a rake setup akin to the previous regulations like Red Bull have done.

Hamilton confirmed afterwards that the two cars had been running different setups, but regardless of what they try, Russell maintains that they are both encountering difficulties.

“I think it’s clear. It’s all about lap time and we are certainly not where we want to be,” he told Sky Sports.

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“I think we made a bit of progress resolving some issues but the pace is just not there at all at the moment, so we need to really go over the data tonight to understand where we are both struggling a bit with the car.

“We are a long way off the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari, even the likes of AlphaTauri [and] Alfa Romeo seemingly on our pace or even quicker. So we’ve a bit of work to do.”

Russell himself looked handy over one lap, but he emphasised that there is a difference between setting a killer lap and maintaining that pace over a race distance.

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“But that’s one lap. I don’t think you can read too much into one lap. I think the high-fuel pace is a bit more representative and we were consistently over a second slower than where our rivals are,” he replied when asked about this small portion of joy.

The 24-year-old concedes that the upgrades being place onto the car are not cultivating the desired results, but the team will continue working cohesively to improve the situation.

“I need to look into the data a bit further. Maybe there’s a reason for it, but from our side we are definitely not overly happy with the car right now,” he explained.

“We’ve got some work to do but if anyone can, our team can. So let’s see.

“We are truly throwing everything at it at the moment to try and unlock the potential we think is there but we are just really struggling to tap into at the moment.

“Everything we try is maybe one step forward, two steps back – there’s always a bit of a limitation.

“It will take time. We all hoped we could have solved it for this weekend but how things stand at the moment, we aren’t in the fight and we’ve some work to do.”

READ: ‘Lewis has nothing to prove’: Russell downplays rivalry with ‘superhero’ Hamilton

The Brackley squad have spent much of the winter tipping rivals Ferrari and Red Bull to be the quickest, but Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen have dismissed these claims, while Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto is “sure” that Mercedes will be near the front in qualifying on Saturday.