F1: George Russell thinks Red Bull are sandbagging (Update)

(GMM) The jury is out as to whether Mercedes really narrowed the gap to Red Bull’s dominance in Melbourne.

“You shouldn’t have any illusions,” Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said after Lewis Hamilton finished second behind back-to-back world champion Max Verstappen on Sunday.

“The Red Bulls are still in a league of their own,” he added.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner, however, insists that the field was “certainly a little closer” in Australia compared to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

But George Russell, who even led for a time in Melbourne before his fiery retirement, thinks Red Bull was carefully managing its pace last weekend.

“Certainly they’re holding back,” he told a BBC podcast.

“I think they’re almost embarrassed to show their full potential because the faster they seem the more the sport will try to hold them back in some way.”

Russell thinks Red Bull is still “probably seven tenths” per second ahead of any other rival in 2023.

“Max has no reason to force it, and neither does Red Bull,” said the Briton.

George Russell – LAT Images for Mercedes

Dr Helmut Marko, though, said both qualifying and the race in Melbourne demonstrated “how close it is” at the top of the sport.

“We’re always said to have a dominance that only exists when everything is running smoothly,” said the top Red Bull official.

“Our rivals Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari have made gains.”

Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko and Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner walk in the Paddock. Marko: “Max is definitely the best driver right now. That we have signed such a long contract with him has been one of the best decisions. That stability is very important for the team and Max now also has certainty.” (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

However, he also acknowledges that Mercedes may have looked close to Red Bull than actual reality because the German team had “nothing to lose” amid Sunday’s chaos in Australia.

“When Max and Lewis got close, Max was right to not take risks because he’s thinking of the championship,” said Marko.

“But Max is ahead of Alonso by only 24 points, which is one victory. It’s not as easy for us as some people think.”

Mercedes’ Wolff, meanwhile, admitted that while Hamilton and Russell did “an excellent job” last weekend, “others did not do so well”.

He is undoubtedly referring to Ferrari, whose boss Frederic Vasseur was actually relieved with the car’s better pace in Australia – but frustrated with the failure to score even a single point.

“The pace was there, and so was the consistency,” said the Frenchman. “Now we have to build on that. We took a step forward in terms of pure performance.”

Indeed, Carlos Sainz bemoaned “the most unfair penalty I’ve ever seen in my life” for the clash with Fernando Alonso, while Charles Leclerc slumped to tenth in the drivers’ standings after his Melbourne DNF.

“This is my worst start to a season,” the Monaco-born driver said.

“I have only six or eight points – I don’t remember how many. But it’s very upsetting.

“Right now, I’m not setting long-term goals,” Leclerc continued. “It’s more important now to finish the races without penalties or technical problems.

“After that, we’ll see what results are possible.”

April 3, 2023 

–by Mark Cipolloni–

George Russell believes Max Verstappen was downplaying Red Bull’s superior pace by not opening up too big a gap on Lewis Hamilton during the Australian GP on Sunday.

Russell claims Red Bull don’t want the FIA to step in and do something to negate their advantage.

As we have written a number of times on these pages, Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and all the other teams threw Red Bull under the bus over their marginal cost cap breach, calling them outright cheaters.  Their employees children were being bullied on the school yard as a result.

That pissed the Red Bull engineers off so much, they put their heads down over the winter and designed a race car that would destroy their critics and make them look like incompetent fools.

And so far, they are doing just that as all the teams are tripping over their ‘dicks’ trying to catch up.

Toto Wolff looks mad at the world – a caffeine drink company is destroying the mighty Mercedes
Toto Wolff and Frederic Vasseur look despondent at the Australian GP – their automotive brands being destroyed by a caffeine drink company

Writing for French sports newspaper L’Equipe prior to the Australian Grand Prix, Alain Prost said nine of the 10 Formula 1 teams are “in crisis” this season.

“Wherever you look, you can see that it’s not going well and that, in a way, it’s already a crisis. And a crisis on all levels, whether you are a big or a small.

“There are, of course, the factory or historic teams which are suffering, such as McLaren, which is not only not rebuilding but, year after year, is plunging. There is Alpine, whose recovery is still slow in coming. There is Mercedes, which persists in its admittedly innovative concept, but which obviously does not work.

“And then there is Ferrari, a crisis on all levels”

Getting a good laugh at their rival’s miserable faces. Adrian Newey, the Chief Technical Officer of Red Bull Racing, Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and Red Bull Racing Team Consultant Dr Helmut Marko walk in the Paddock  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Despite falling behind both Mercedes cars at the start Sunday, Verstappen made short work of Lewis Hamilton once DRS was available after the initial restart.

He built up a two-second advantage over the seven-time World Champion within one lap.  He then slowed to save the engine and was just making marginal gains henceforth.

“For sure they’re holding back,” the Mercedes driver said via the BBC’s Checkered Flag podcast.

“I think they are almost embarrassed to show their full potential because the faster they seem, the more that the sport is going to try and hold them back somehow.

“I think realistically they probably have seven-tenths advantage over the rest of the field.

“I don’t know what the pace difference looks like at the moment but Max has got no reason to be pushing it nor has Red Bull.

“They’ve done a really great job to be fair to them. We can’t take that away, and we clearly have to up our game.”

Marko Disagrees

“You can see how close it is when a little thing doesn’t work out because we’re always said to have a superiority that only exists when everything is running smoothly,” Dr. Helmut Marko said on Sky Deutschland.

“Our rivals Aston Martin, Ferrari and Mercedes have made gains.”

If you are not good enough to beat them, copy them

Lewis Hamilton, spying on the Red Bull RB19 in Melbourne
Former Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas spy on the Red Bull RB19
George Russell, spying on the Red Bull RB19 in Melbourne
Toto Wolff, spying on the Red Bull RB19 in Melbourne


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