Russell Cautious as Mercedes Shows Form, But Verstappen Maintains Edge in Race Simulations

George Russell has expressed caution about claims that Mercedes is poised to contend for victories and titles again, even after their promising performance in the Formula 1 practice sessions at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Mercedes finished the second practice session on Thursday with Lewis Hamilton leading and Russell closely behind, marking a notable improvement from their position as the fourth-fastest team in Bahrain a year ago.

Despite their strong performance, Russell noted that during the race simulations in the latter part of FP2, Max Verstappen seemed to have the upper hand.

Russell was cautious about overestimating Mercedes’ current form, acknowledging that there was still a significant gap to Verstappen, especially with heavier fuel loads.

“We need to sit down and understand where this increase in performance came from. Is it a one off? Can we sustain this? What we need to do to fight for a serious position on Sunday,” he said.

“As I said, our aim is to try and focus and fight for victory. After testing, Max looked a long way out in front but now that gap has reduced. He’s still out in front. I think he’s still got a healthy margin to the others rather than just a ridiculous margin.

“By no means does this mean we’re back or we can fight with them just yet but as I said it’s a really solid day.”

Russell admitted that Mercedes was unsure of the reason behind their notably strong qualifying pace, following adjustments made to the car’s setup after pre-season testing.

“We’re not going to get carried away with ourselves,” he added. “The qualifying pace looked really strong. We still need to try and understand why it was so good. We made some changes from the test and it exceeded our expectations but ultimately the long run pace, which is where it all happens, Max was still ahead of us.

“It was very close with Fernando, Lando and the Ferraris, and Lewis and I were very similar. We’ve got a real fight on our hands in race pace.

“As I said, we’re really pleased with the day. The car is performing really well but we’re not getting carried away.”