George Russell believes Mercedes will not compete for victory at the start of the Formula One season in Bahrain next week.
Russell stated that based on the first two days of pre-season testing, he believed Red Bull was the team to beat.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Alfa Romeo Has Named An Italian As Its Team Representative For 2023
He said: “We definitely believe eventually we will have a car capable of getting in that fight.
“Whether we’re going to have that next weekend in Bahrain, I think may be a bit of a stretch.”
Russell’s remarks came as Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen looked impressive for the second day in a row at the Sakhir circuit.
“They look very strong, very stable,” Russell said. “The car is looking really strong and obviously Max is performing really well.
“So I think realistically, it will be a stretch for next week. But there’s no reason why eventually we can’t get there at some point this year, and we’ve always seen the strength of Mercedes and their development rates. So yeah, definitely. My belief is that.”
Pre-season testing times are notoriously unreliable predictors of form, as fuel loads, engine modes, and other factors can all have a significant impact on lap times.
Verstappen finished the day second fastest behind Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, who went out late in the day on the softest tyres for what appeared to be a qualifying simulation.
Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin was third quickest, ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Nyck de Vries, who also did a qualifying-style run on the softest tyres.
Russell finished 13th in the Mercedes, while teammate Lewis Hamilton finished 15th.
Mercedes enters 2023 after a difficult year that saw the end of their eight-year run of constructors’ titles.
They only won one race, with Russell, at the season’s penultimate race in Brazil, finishing third behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
However, Russell stated that the team is in a better position than they were at the same point last year, when they discovered during pre-season testing that their car was suffering from aerodynamic bouncing, or porpoising, which jeopardized their season.
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Novak Djokovic Beats Alex De Minaur In Australian Open
“The entry phase [to the corner] has been improved,” Russell said. “It’s no secret when you’re watching the onboards and videos that we are struggling a little bit with the balance, struggling a lot in the mid corner.
“But I think it’s a balance that is probably easier to solve than we had last year. So even though it’s still a limitation, I think it’s a good problem to have.”