George Russell says Mercedes are “trying to understand” the consistent performance disparity between him and Lewis Hamilton throughout race weekends in 2023.

Having managed to usurp Hamilton in his debut year with Mercedes last season, Russell currently trails his team-mate by 69 points with only three rounds remaining.

Russell has particularly been unable to provide a match for Hamilton in the previous two races, lagging 22s and 27s behind in the United States and Mexico respectively.

However, Russell has denied that Mercedes’ introduction of a revised floor in Austin has contributed to his troubles, citing his progress was hindered by other limitations.

“I’m feeling good with the new upgrades, to be honest,” Russell said ahead of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, a race he won last year.

“The last two races have been really poor, for different reasons, they haven’t been very intuitive races with the limitations that we’ve had, so I had to do massive management last weekend because of the brakes, massive management in Austin because of the fuel, so I’m not sitting here scratching my head why the pace isn’t there, because I know that without these things the pace will be there.

“It was just a couple of unfortunate events that were the reason, so I’m kind of glad we’ve got this weekend here in Brazil, I don’t foresee we’ll have any of these limitations and we’ll see where we’ll fall out.”

Russell believes his struggles in the last two weekends have epitomised his campaign, which has yielded only one podium.

“But it’s just been topping off our season, really,” he continued. “It’s been a really challenging year, especially in contrast with last year, when every race seemed to be sort of going our way, in the rhythm, loads of things. And this year has been very scrappy.”

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 27.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Practice Day.

The Briton insists that Mercedes’ most recent upgrade hasn’t changed the behavioural traits of its W14, adding that it’s only added a minor performance benefit.

Asked if he retained the same confidence to push the car, Russell said: “Yes, it’s very fine margins. In Austin, with the Sprint race, we started slightly on the back foot, In Mexico I missed FP1 and the pace was really strong. In FP3 we were really strong, we were strong during qualifying and then, Q3, was just a bit of a strange one, for everybody.

“I don’t want to be taking excuses here, every weekend has its own limitations, this weekend it’s going to have its own limitations, but, in all honesty, you feel the upgrade, but the car isn’t really any different, it just has a little bit more downforce.”

While Hamilton only has a 10-9 edge in the qualifying head-to-head this year, the performance margin between the two Mercedes drivers has often been drastic.

Russell asserts the team is trying to get on top of the puzzling trend but believes that it derives from the driver on the backfoot trying to overcompensate for their shortfalls.

Asked if there was something within the car to explain the pattern, Russell admitted: “No, there isn’t. It’s a good question, that’s definitively something we’ve noticed, Lewis and I, over the course of the year, I don’t think we’ve ever been on the same pace.

“I think over the last two years our qualifying record is almost the same, but it’s either one driver is 0.4s or 0.6s ahead or it’s the other.

“It’s something we’re trying to understand, I think, often, when you’re slightly on the back foot, as a driver, you’re chasing to close that gap, and sometimes, in doing so, you take a step back, rather than naturally close that gap, so it’s something I’m trying to figure out myself, and I’m sure he’s trying to figure out as well.”

Russell has also denied that any contrast in driving style between him and Hamilton could be behind the consistent issue.

“I think there are definitively small differences in driving style, but the underlying limitations that we have are exactly the same,” he explained.

“What we’re chasing is exactly the same, but I think that, as we saw last week, Formula 1 is so complex with these tyres, and it doesn’t take a lot of changing your driving style, how you approach a corner, how you attack a corner, to have a substantial impact for good or for bad on the tyres. 

“We, as drivers, definitively have our differences, which favor me in certain circuits and favor him in others, so I’m trying to learn from him on those circuits, I’m sure he’s trying to learn from me on the circuits where I’m ahead as well.”

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