Mercedes’ George Russell has affirmed that “diva” is not the word he would use the describe the 2022 car, as the problems they have been experiencing warrant a deeper explanation than that.
The Silver Arrows have been hampered by a multitude of issues posed by the new technical regulations, and the new ground effect aerodynamics have led to the car bouncing off the track surfacing, in a phenomenon labelled as “porpoising.”
The incessant turbulence on the straight is costing Russell and team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton in a straight line as drag becomes a factor, while the poor visibility and handling going into corners is also costing them time to runaway leaders Ferrari and Red Bull.
It has meant that, at times, the German outfit have looked in danger of becoming submerged in the midfield fight rather than getting closer to the front, and both drivers have managed a best finish of third.
Team principal Toto Wolff has recently used the term “diva” to describe the W13, but this is the same word they used for the 2017 car that won the championship, so Russell believes there is far more to it than just an erratic car.
“[The performance is] there; we just need to try and unlock it. Toto’s throwing the word diva around a lot, but I think that’s a bit of an understatement because it’s so unpredictable,” he explained.
“When the thing just starts bouncing in the corners, it’s a killer to drive. [In the race] it wasn’t as bad; when you’re not in your full quali mode, you’re not going quite as quick, but it certainly wasn’t great.”
Russell topped FP2 in Miami after finishing second in the first practice session, but he fell to 17th in FP3 before qualifying 12th.
He recovered to fifth in the race – albeit with a slice of fortune from the Safety Car – so the performance fluctuation of the Mercedes was on full display in Florida, leaving no shortage of confusion for the 24-year-old.
“We’ve known all along there is a fast racing car there,” added Russell.
“[But] Friday was a complete outlier, and we don’t really understand why. Lewis did a better job than I did to qualify P6, but even fuel- and power-corrected, his fastest laps were on Friday, whereas every other driver improved [by] well over one second.
“I think my race pace was two-tenths slower than [Charles] Leclerc on Friday, and [on Sunday] it’s back to half a second to a second, so I don’t know.”
Russell is fourth in the Drivers’ Standings after five rounds of the season, 23 points ahead of Hamilton having out-raced him in the last four grand prix.