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Mercedes: Why Barcelona will be the “real test”

Mercedes driver George Russell “sees no reason” why Mercedes should not be competitive in Barcelona: How good are the updates really?

The Spanish Grand Prix will probably shed more light on the current balance of power after the recent mix of winners and pole-setters in Formula 1. After a series of updates, Ferrari and Mercedes in particular will be focusing on whether the new parts will also work on a classic racetrack with medium and fast corners like Barcelona.

The Silver Arrows in particular seem to have taken a big step forward with the front wing introduced in Monaco, which was underpinned by further updates in Canada. According to George Russell, who put the Mercedes W15 on pole position in Montreal two weeks ago, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya will be “a true test” of whether his team has really made the leap to Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren.

“It’s very exciting ahead of this weekend because before Canada we were driving in the simulator and trying out these new upgrades,” said Russell on media Thursday in Spain. “It seemed like a big step forward and to be honest I didn’t really believe it when I was driving in the simulator. But it proved to be true in Canada.”

“We also had some indications that we would be quick in Canada because the corners are very similar all over the track. I think this [here in Spain] will be a real test and if we can be fast this weekend, it’s a good sign for the season. “

Russell suspects Red Bull “have more in the bag “

And even though team-mate Lewis Hamilton warns that, despite good signs, “there are no certainties in this sport”, the seven-time Formula 1 world champion is also “optimistic” because “we keep putting new parts in the car”.

“[For Spain there are] a few little things here and there,” Hamilton adds. “But nothing major this weekend. I’m sure it’s positive to see that we’re making progress.”

In any case, team-mate Russell believes he is in a position to fight for victory on Sunday: “I’m happy with myself and the car,” he says. “And I don’t think there’s any reason why we can’t be competitive again. We’ll have to wait and see how Red Bull performs. “

“They’ve been the dominant force for so long and they’ve openly admitted that the last three races have probably been the most difficult for a long time, but they’ve won two of those three races. So when a team says it was a very difficult race and still wins, they have more in the bag.”

“But we are making really good steps forward at the moment. We believe that we can achieve even more in the coming races. But this weekend we have to wait and see. It’s wet at the moment. I hope it stays dry, to be honest. “

Russell explains driving error in Canada

Because the rain was already Mercedes’ undoing in Canada. In dry conditions on Saturday in qualifying and towards the end of the race, when the track had dried out, no car drove faster around the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve than the Mercedes. However, Russell’s slightly weaker pace in the rain was compounded by a few driving errors that thwarted a better chance of victory.

“I was very angry with myself on Sunday evening and Monday morning,” says the 26-year-old. “When I looked back at the race, I remembered how tricky it was out there and that I could have easily not made any of those mistakes if I’d turned the risk dial down and gone a tenth of a second slower for 70 laps.”

“But if I had gone a tenth of a second slower for 70 laps, I probably wouldn’t even be in this position. I haven’t made any mistakes throughout the season. Now I’m really pushing myself because I want to get this win for the team. If I was fighting for the championship, I probably wouldn’t be risking so much in these races, but at the moment we’re not fighting for the championship. “

Focus on pit stops: Mercedes only sixth on the grid

Ahead of the weekend in Spain, Russell and Hamilton also talked about another Mercedes problem, namely the pit stops. The season average for the two Mercedes drivers is 2.85 seconds when changing tires. Although this is a good improvement on last year (3.07), it only puts them in sixth place in the teams’ pit stop rankings.

They are still lagging behind the two Red Bull drivers in particular, who have an average pit stop time of just 2.35 seconds. Russell explains: “In the world of the budget cap, it’s very difficult to justify the investment in improving the pit equipment when you can gain half a second over the course of maybe 70 laps in a race.”

“We did it anyway and our job is not to brake too late, brake consistently, stop on the markers and give the mechanics the best chance of catching the wheel nut when you come in for the pit stop. If you come in too fast and lock up a bit, it’s a pretty scary place for the mechanics, so yes, they’re doing a great job at the moment and our pit stops have improved a lot.”

Hamilton added: “We understood that was a weak point. It wasn’t necessarily down to the pit crew, but rather the design of the car. So we made some changes that helped the pit crew to speed things up, I think.”

“But even so, they have made more effort to train more and prepare better. You can see how the guys train in the pit garage. They make many, many stops at the factory, even in their free time. And that is also noticeable in their performance. So I’m very, very proud of the guys in the garage, who have done a great job, especially recently with our stops. “



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