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Mercedes' "knife-edge" F1 car behind Russell's recent struggles

Mercedes thinks its struggle balancing its "knife-edge" 2023 Formula 1 car is behind George Russell's recent drop in form.

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

Over the past three races, Russell took a fifth and two sixth-place finishes, while team-mate Lewis Hamilton grabbed a podium and two fourth-place results, as Mercedes battled McLaren and Ferrari for the status of second-fastest team.

Since the Austrian Grand Prix weekend at the start of July, Russell has said on several occasions that "things aren't clicking" between him and the W14.

When team boss Toto Wolff was asked about Russell's dip in form, he said the difficulty of finding a sweet spot in this year's car has affected Russell.

"These cars are on the knife-edge, and you can quickly fall off it and lose the confidence," Wolff said.

"And on the other side, if you're within that corridor of a sweet spot - although having said that, that car has no sweet spot - but being more in that zone of understanding what it will do next, I think there's a big difference."

Chief technical officer Mike Elliot concurred that the need for this era of ground-effect cars to be run close to the ground makes it harder to maintain the right balance around a lap.

"I think these cars are hard to drive when they're running close to the ground," Elliot added.

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23

Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images

"It's tricky to find that right balance through the corner and it's tricky to deal with the stiffness of the cars.

"George is a fantastic driver. I'm sure George will get what he needs to get out of the car fairly quickly."

Russell doesn't believe the car's design shift in Monaco has worked against him, as the feeling in the car hasn't changed much compared to how it felt at the start of the season.

His only podium of the season, a third place in Spain, came after the revamp.

"No, I don't think so. I think it's just in your rhythm," he replied on Saturday when asked if his slump was related to the upgrades. 

"The car's feeling pretty similar to what it did at the start of the year. Some small changes, but nothing to do with the updates.

"Just sometimes things are just going your way and you've got that confidence. Sometimes you just lose a bit of confidence, and it has a bit of a knock-on effect."

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After the Belgian Grand Prix, the final event before the summer break, Russell was feeling better about attacking the issue in the second half of the season, having found some answers on why recent set-up choices haven't worked out for him.

"I'd say the first six races were really strong, the last six races not so much. [We have] a few ideas why that is," he explained after finishing sixth at Spa-Francorchamps.

"This weekend has validated probably the direction we've taken with the set-up in recent races hasn't been the right one.

"It definitely can be tweaked."

Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble and Adam Cooper

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