George Russell talks upgrades and potential teammates at F1 Miami Grand Prix

MIAMI — One of the more fascinating driver media sessions at Hard Rock Stadium this steamy Thursday?

The one delivered by Mercedes driver George Russell.

Late in the afternoon at Hard Rock Stadium, when many media members were seeking out shade and hydration more than anything else, Russell settled into a chair in front of the assembled media, grabbed a microphone, and addressed his current teammate, a prospective future teammate, and dominance in Formula 1.

Early in his session, Russell talked about the slow start from Mercedes, and where the team finds itself heading into this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix. “I think there’s been a lot of learnings from the past races, and I think we find ourselves in a much better position now that we’ve done some extreme set of options between the races,” said Russell to the media, including SB Nation.

“We know where the car is operating, and it’s best, I think. Now we just need to to fine tune that and build upon it. It’s a better foundation. So we’ve got some some small update to the car this weekend. I think a few of the teams are bringing updates, So whether there’ll be a change in the order, who knows,” continued Russell. “But I think we’re all in good spirits.”

The discussion turned to the future at Mercedes. As has been well-documented Russell’s current teammate, Lewis Hamilton, is headed to Ferrari for 2025. That leaves one of the most-coveted seats in the sport, a spot at Mercedes, available for next season.

A name that has been linked with that seat? None other than that of Max Verstappen.

Would Russell welcome Verstappen as a teammate?

“I made it clear that I’d welcome anybody,” said Russell. “I think having a chance to to sign someone like Max? Every team would would go for it. And as I said before, I’d love to have that opportunity going against Max.”

Russell then compared driving alongside Verstappen to his current situation.

“I feel privileged to have a chance to be teammates with Lewis. He still is, you know, statistically the greatest driver of all time,” added Russell. “To do that [again with] somebody like Max would be great for me, personally, because I believe in myself. In my abilities.”

There is another driver in the mix for Mercedes, wunderkind Andrea Kimi Antonelli. The 17-year-old driver has been participating in testing sessions with Mercedes this season while competing in F2, and has also been mentioned as an option for the team starting in 2025. Asked by Will Buxton of F1TV on having Antonelli as a teammate next year, Russell noted that he has been impressed with the young driver.

“There’s no doubt that he’s gonna be in a Mercedes at some point in the future,” stated Russell. “Time will tell, but yeah, he’s a great driver and won everything in his junior career.

“So there’s no reason not to see him in Formula One,”

Formula 1 has seen an explosion of new fans the past few years.

However, those fans have arrived at a period of dominance from Verstappen and Red Bull. Verstappen has won three-straight Drivers’ Championships, and certainly looks on his way to a fourth given his start this season. Red Bull also look en route to another Constructors’ title themselves.

From Russell’s viewpoint, dominance is part of life in Formula 1.

“When you join a team like Mercedes, we’re all here to win. But that’s the same for Ferrari. It’s the same for McLaren,” described Russell. That was the same for Red Bull during the Mercedes dominance era.

“And unfortunately, this is Formula One. You always see, I think it’s fair to say you always see dominance. If you look 30 years ago, you had Williams dominating. You had McLaren dominating, and then it was Ferrari dominated,” continued the Mercedes driver. “Then Red Bull, then Mercedes. So I think the changes that we’re seeing in the regulation and the cost cap with the winter time it is going to bring the field closer together.”

As far as this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, Russell is optimistic that the team has learned more about the W15, and believes some upgrades may help their fight up the table. He also outlined how other teams have seen dramatic improvements with upgrade packages, and perhaps Mercedes can start something similar this weekend.

“I think there’s been other examples showing that when you bring an upgrade to the car, if you get it into that sweet spot, you can find a lot of performance,” described Russell. “We saw it with Aston Martin in the 2022 winter. We saw it with McLaren last year, so we have to keep on believing that we can achieve a jump like that.”

“But we’re also being realistic,” cautioned Russell. “We know that weekly, in that fight with those four teams, it won’t take long to make that swing. So you know, we’re bringing some upgrades to the race this weekend. I think McLaren and I think Aston Martin had their [upgrades] last week. So everybody’s improving their car. But you’re often improving at the same rate.

“And that’s the challenge.”

Russell and the rest of Mercedes get their first crack at that challenge with Friday’s single practice session, before qualifying for the F1 Sprint race here at the Miami Grand Prix.

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