George Russell laments that his only rival in the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix was Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, and suggests that he and Mercedes team-mate Sir Lewis Hamilton will largely be fighting amongst themselves in the early part of the season.
Mercedes were one of the surprises of qualifying in Bahrain after their publicly emitted concerns after testing but, conversely to previous years, the shock came in the fact that they were not actually playing a game of deception with their comments.
Hamilton qualified fifth on Saturday, seven tenths of a second off the pace, with Russell in ninth.
The 24-year-old was able to recover back up the order to sixth in the opening exchanges, passing Magnussen, who had started a remarkable seventh on his return to Formula 1 after a year out.
Russell suggested that Haas had “quite a pace advantage” over Mercedes in Bahrain.
“The only person I overtook was Kevin in the Haas and I think they had quite a pace advantage,” he said.
“I mean, it felt relatively good and easier to follow, but obviously the cars are much heavier and Bahrain is always a tricky race with the surface temperature.”
The Silver Arrows have looked like one of the teams struggling to find a indissoluble fix for the “porpoising” issue posed by the new technical regulations, and the Briton is simply learning to acclimatise himself to the bouncing along the straights.
He noted that, after 57 laps with the recurring and nauseating problem, he will likely need to take some painkillers for his head.
“The adrenalin is still running at the moment but probably later,” he added.
“It’s not very pleasant but you just get on with it because it’s more annoying because you know it’s compromising your lap time.
“But it’s like riding a roller coaster, you get used to it.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has recently stated that his cars had the edge over Ferrari in the first sector in Bahrain, and this was the section that required more power than Sector Two, where Ferrari were faster.
The F1 circus arrives in Saudi Arabia for round two of the 2022 season this weekend, and the powerful nature of the Jeddah Corniche Circuit gives Russell hope that the Mercedes package will be more competitive there.
“We are optimistic it may suit us slightly better but we know where we are. Even if it does, it won’t overturn that performance deficit to the cars ahead,” he explained.
However, he predicts his team are still consigned to remaining slower than Red Bull and Ferrari.
“I think we will probably be in a lonely race for the first half of the year behind Ferrari and Red Bull and ahead of the midfield,” he insisted.
Mercedes managed a podium finish through Hamilton after Red Bull suffered a late double-retirement, and this also helped Russell move up to fourth.