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Russell: Hamilton F1 sprint podium doesn’t disguise progress Mercedes still needs

George Russell feels Mercedes still has a “lot of work to do” despite Lewis Hamilton grabbing its first podium of the season in Formula 1’s China sprint.

Hamilton proved how strong the race pace of the team’s W15 is when he finished second in the Shanghai sprint, beaten only by Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

It was a performance that confirmed suspicions that the Mercedes is better against the opposition on long runs, but is struggling to extract as good a performance on single-lap form which often leaves it far down the order.

Russell said that Hamilton’s result showed what was possible for the team if it could get itself further up the grid, as his squad worked hard to get to the bottom of why it is losing out on fresh tyres.

“Lewis proved that if you can get on the right side of that qualifying group and gaggle of cars, we can go on to score a podium,” he said. “The potential was there in Bahrain, and Lewis did it [in the sprint]. If that was a main grand prix, he would still probably have finished P3.

“But qualifying was a tricky one. So it's not easy for anybody, and I think Ferrari aren't content, Aston aren't happy. Everybody wants to be fighting for victories and, right now, no team is doing a good enough job bar Red Bull.”

Russell said that the glimmer of light delivered by Hamilton’s podium could not disguise the fact that Mercedes still needed to work hard to not qualify in the pack.

“I think that's just where we are as a team at the moment,” he said. “We're in that fight. We know we have a faster race car, nine times out of 10, than we do a qualifying car.

“In the [sprint] race we were quicker than Aston, we were quicker than McLaren, and maybe a small step behind Ferrari. That's been a small trend over the last three years where we've been slightly on the back foot on a Saturday, and we come forward on a Sunday.

“But we're not content with where we are. We've got a lot of work to do. And we're all in this fight for best of the rest.”

Hamilton’s joy at the sprint podium did not last long as a disappointing qualifying performance, where he was caught out by a tailwind at Turn 14, left him knocked out in Q1 and down in 18th on the grid.

Asked if he was surprised to see Hamilton so far down, Russell said: “Of course. He is the greatest driver of all time and that's not where he should be. It’s not where we should be fighting.

“But we're here together as a team. And collectively, we just need to keep on pushing forward and try to make some big gains as the season goes on.”

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