Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes could take “positives” out of Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after he and teammate George Russell finished fifth and fourth respectively.
For a few hours Russell was, in fact, promoted to third after Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was handed a post-race 10-seconds penalty for an infringement during his pit-stop when he was serving a five-second penalty for making an incorrect start.
Russell described the decision as “harsh”, a view that the FIA agreed with when Aston Martin appealed. Alonso was reinstated for the 100th podium of his career.
That change, however, did not take the gloss off an encouraging weekend for Mercedes although, like everyone else they are struggling to keep pace with the Red Bulls of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen who completed a third successive 1-2.
“We got some great points as a team today,” said Hamilton immediately after the race. “George got third, which is amazing. I went forward, one foot in front of the other!
“I’m really grateful to have come from seventh place.
“The strategy didn’t work for me. The set-up was a bit off. If I had George’s set-up I would be in a better position. There’s lots to work on but we can take the positives.”
Mercedes still finished far behind the commanding Red Bulls as Perez claimed his fifth career victory ahead of defending double champion Max Verstappen, who came through the field from 15th on the grid.
Mercedes once enjoyed similar domination, winning eight consecutive constructors’ titles.
“You’ve got to give credit to what Red Bull have done,” said Russell. “The gap is bigger than any since Mercedes in 2014. It’s a serious gap and everyone needs to work harder.”
Mercedes, who struggled in 2022 and took fifth and seventh in the opening race of this season in Bahrain, have changed direction with their car development.
“We’ve made the right decision over the winter and we can regain our pace quicker now,” Russell said. “We want to win races and fight for the championship.
“But, we’ve got to be realistic. We’ll focus on ourselves and get the fundamentals right.”
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff, who conceded during the week that Hamilton might leave the team if it failed to improve its cars, agreed.
“I think we are seeing some performance gains compared to Bahrain, which is encouraging,” he said.
“But it’s going to be a long time before we can think about challenging the Red Bulls.”
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