[Russell: Trying to “reinvent the wheel” behind F1 form dip
Russell enjoyed a strong start to the year but gradually started struggling in qualifying throughout the second quarter of the season, out-qualifying team-mate Lewis Hamilton just once since Monaco, which then put him on the back foot on Sundays.
Over the race weekends before the summer shutdown Russell repeatedly stated “things weren’t clicking” for him aboard the Mercedes W14.
But as F1 reprised in Zandvoort he struck back by qualifying third behind Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, while Hamilton was the Mercedes driver struggling on Saturday.
Speaking at Monza, Russell revealed he changed his set-up approach with his core group of engineers after “overreaching” and trying to “reinvent the wheel”.
“I probably lost my way slightly in the last couple of races before the break,” he explained.
“This year [I was] overreaching at times, which has led to a bit of a drop in performance.
“What I think we’ve concluded is that we’ve been going wrong in set-up direction in the recent few races. And that’s been compromising my confidence and qualifying performance, and we perhaps put too much emphasis on the race.
“But that’s why I was so happy with Zandvoort, because we changed the approach, put full focus on qualifying and on regaining my confidence. And after five laps back in the car, I felt like I got my mojo back.”
George Russell, Mercedes-AMG
Photo by: Erik Junius
When asked by Motorsport.com just how easy it is with the current generations of ground-effect cars to get lost in the car’s set-up, Russell likened his overthinking to putting too many cherries on a cake.
“Sometimes you need to recognise where the maximum potential is,” he explained. “And if you’re trying to exceed that potential in a given race weekend, nine times out of 10, you’ll probably go backwards.
“We can’t reinvent the wheel right here on this race weekend. You’ve got your package, you can tweak it, you can put the cherry on the cake.
“But if you focus too much on trying to add two or three cherries, you might ruin the cake altogether.
“Sometimes working harder but not smarter is not the way.”
The main difficulty of getting the set-up right is a compromise between ride heights and consistent aerodynamic load through various corner types, which tends to make cars stiffer and harder to drive.
“I think with these generations of cars, you always are looking for that best trade-off,” Russell added. “Most cars add their maximum downforce really low to the floor.
“You’ve got to run quite stiff and aggressive, which always comes at the expense of the ride and the compliance of the car.
“We’ve just been chasing one direction, thinking that would pay off and it hasn’t.
“There are no guarantees that we’ve solved it. But I think we’ve got a clearer idea how to react.”
“We’ve not reinvented the wheel, but I feel like we’re on the right path.”