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Mercedes star George Russell brings up Rafael Nadal in complaint about…

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George Russell has suggested that F1 bosses are throwing drivers in at the deep end this year by reducing the amount of pre-season testing. The Mercedes ace has equated the decision to sending tennis icon Rafael Nadal into the French Open with hardly any practice, as the F1 curtain-raiser in Bahrain edges closer.

Teams have had to grapple with new regulations for the 2023 season, one of which being a reduction in testing time. Whereas drivers benefitted from six full days of tests last year, it has been slashed to a three-day outing this time around, which gets underway in Bahrain on Thursday.

Mercedes will be desperate to get their new W14 out on track and see what’s what, having struggled to get to grips with porpoising issues in 2022. However, F1 chiefs have halved the pre-season practice time in an effort to cut costs as teams go into the second year of the ground-effect design era.
As recently as 2010 teams had 12 days of running, but it has gradually been cut down over the years, much to the dismay of Russell.

The 25-year-old has pointed out that, with two drivers in each team, a three-day test means that he and Lewis Hamilton will each only have one-and-a-half days to get to know their car. To get his point across, Russell used 22-time Grand Slam champion Nadal as an example.

“Could you imagine Rafa Nadal spending 12 weeks without hitting a ball and then going straight into the French Open with one-and-a-half days of training?” he quizzed. “It would never happen.”
Fans will be keeping a close eye on Mercedes over the coming weekend’s testing, not least to see whether they have closed the gap on rivals Red Bull and Ferrari. The Silver Arrows arguably improved their car more than any other team over the course of the 2022 season, allowing Russell to notch his first Grand Prix win and the team’s only victory of the season in Brazil.

The former Williams star has admitted that he is turning out ‘to win’ in the coming campaign, suggesting that spending a year working alongside seven-time world champion Hamilton has been hugely beneficial while leaving the door open to further improvement.

“Definitely still room to improve,” Russell admitted, “and I feel that fills me with confidence, because I still felt like I performed at a very high level, even though I know I’ve got a lot more in my pocket. I think the main one is probably just the tyre management — something I thought Lewis was very good at was maximising the stints and getting the most out of the tyres across a stint.

“That year under my belt being team-mates with him, seeing some of his traits, has been really, really beneficial for me. So I feel like I was on quite a steep learning curve in that regard, but still, I feel like I’ve got a lot more to come.”

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