George Russell expects Mercedes to close the gap on the leading teams at the Azerbaijan GP, but doesn’t think they will be able to challenge for victory.
After a difficult start to the F1 season due to issues with porpoising – an aerodynamic problem that results in the car bouncing up and down on the track - Mercedes showed improvements at the Spanish Grand Prix as Russell came third and team-mate Lewis Hamilton finished fifth.
However, last time out in Monaco both drivers slipped back in the field, Russell coming home in fifth and Hamilton in eighth.
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Russell thinks Mercedes’ W13 car will have better pace in Baku, although likely not enough to challenge Ferrari and Red Bull.
“It definitely will be more suited, but I don’t think it’s going to transform our finishing position,” Russell said ahead of the next race of an intriguing F1 campaign so far on June 12.
“At the moment, around Monaco we were six tenths behind, and into Baku we will probably be three tenths behind the front runners we hope, for the best case.”
24-year-old Russell is fourth in the Drivers’ Championship and is the only driver to finish in the top five in every race this season.
He has outshone seven-time champion Hamilton, who is hoping the Silver Arrows' car improves after Monaco.
“I’m praying the car doesn’t feel like it does here,” Hamilton said last time out. “This was the worst in this car so far because of the potholes.
“I’m looking forward to it going away – just my teeth, my jaw moving all the time. I’m done shaking.
“I don’t know if it’s the porpoising. I hope it’s not what we had in the last race, so I want it to not be a problem. But if there are potholes, then in the corners we can have them.”
Russell has also urged Mercedes to find more pace in qualifying.
Russell and Hamilton qualified sixth and eighth respectively in Monaco and have not been able to consistently place on the grid, despite being - in the eyes of most around the paddock - the third-fastest team behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
Hamilton’s qualifying position in Monaco saw him stuck behind both Alpine drivers at different points in the race.
"We need to find a bit more pace in qualifying," said Russell. "We can't afford to keep having an Alpine or a McLaren jump us.
"We have got enough pace to come back through but not enough pace to fight with Ferrari and Red Bull just yet.
"We just need to find a bit more downforce. We haven't been awfully competitive in slow-speed corners, especially when we looked at Barcelona where we were the quickest in high-speed and down the straight.”
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