George Russell has revealed that fuel-saving disguised the full potential of what he could achieve with Mercedes’ latest upgrades at Formula 1’s United States Grand Prix last weekend.
Having lost places at the start, he had a poor stint on the hards as fuel saving kicked in, before a switch to mediums and the all-clear to push triggered a recovery that helped him close down Verstappen by 10 seconds.
He eventually finished seventh, before getting promoted to fifth as a result of the post-race exclusions.
Reflecting on the outing, Russell believed the fuel factor hid what he felt was clear promise from the new floor on the W14.
“Definitely the upgrades were performing really well and I think that was clear with the performance,” he said. “We had some limitations on my side. I had not enough fuel and was having to manage the fuel for half of the race. That really put me on the back foot.
“But the last stint, we just went for it and the pace was probably the strongest out there, which definitely bodes well for the end of the season.”
The strong pace of Mercedes in Austin, off the back of huge potential in Qatar that was wrecked by a first-corner collision between Russell and Hamilton, has indicated that the team has turned the corner on the W14.
And Russell feels that the nature of Mexico – with a lot of low-speed corners and thinner air which should help with the W14’s drag characteristics – can deliver another chance to threaten Red Bull.
“The car was performing really well last year on paper,” he said. “I'd say this circuit suits us better than the likes of Austin and Qatar and Japan, on which we were still pretty competitive too.
“I wouldn't say we have high hopes here, but I think it should suit slightly better. Bit of an unknown going to the C5 compound this year compared to the C4 last year, but we're feeling optimistic going into these two races.”
Russell’s feelings on the competitiveness of Mercedes come with Max Verstappen bracing himself for a tougher time with the Red Bull.
“I personally don't think this is our best track on the calendar, looking at the behaviour of our car this year, with the low-speed corners and the kerbing as well,” said Verstappen ahead of running. “Our car is not very good on that.
“So, I do expect it to be tough, especially over one lap. The race I mean, again, I don't really know. Normally we've been always quite decent in race trim, but over one lap I do think that there's going to be quite a tight battle, not only with Mercedes. I do think Ferrari as well, and McLaren, lately they have been very strong over one lap.”