'Surprised' Russell and Hamilton see 'sign of things to come'


Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton looked surprised and delighted to finish on the podium for the Spanish Grand prix alongside rac winner Max Verstappen.

While the Red Bull never looked under serious threat, the two Mercedes hasn't expected to be the closest challengers to the dominant championship leader, especially not after a down beat start to their weekend.

Hamilton had expressed doubts about even managing to qualify in the top ten but ended up lining up in P4 despite clashing with Russell in Q2 which contributed to missing the final cut and starting today's race in 12th.

Hamilton clashed with Lando Norris in the run down to the final corner and briefly fell behind Lance Stroll but emerged in one piece and was eventually able to dispatch Carlos Sainz to move into second place.

Russell had an even more exciting start and had to take to the escape road to avoid cars going all over the place, and as a result made up five places on the first lap.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates his third position in parc ferme. 04.06.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

There was a heart-in-the-mouth moment for him when the stewards reviewed whether his move had given him an unfair advantage, but he was given the all-clear and was soon moving his way forward up into third by the second round of pit stops.

It was a close battle to keep the podium place with Sergio Perez chasing him down over the concluding laps, but in the end Russell was up to the task and seemingly proving a long-awaited resurgence for Mercedes.

"A little bit surprised for sure," Russell said after triumphing over the Red Bull, which had started one place ahead of him on the grid.

"That was a fun race for us," he said. "Starting in P12 and coming all the way to P3, a sign of things to come hopefully for us and the team.

"Kudos to the team for giving me a great car," he added. "It definitely feels better. When you compare with the guys around we were just quicker and quicker!

"We have put more downforce in the car, we know things are in a better window, so I'm very pleased to be on the podium," he added.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 04.06.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, Race Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Hamilton was just as surprise by his success in Barcelona today. "What a result for our team," he said in parc ferme when interviewed by former team mate Nico Rosberg after the finish.

"We definitely didn't expect to have the result we had today," he admitted. "I just really want to take my hat off to my team. A big, big thank you to everyone back to the factory for continuing to push and bring us a little bit closer to the Bulls."

Naturally, the seven time world champion was determined to play down expectations and not get ahead of himself by talking about challenging Verstappen and Red Bull for future wins in 2023.

"Just one step at a time," he cautioned . "If we can get close by the end of the year, that'd be awesome. But if not, then next year."

“Let’s keep our expectations real,” agreed Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff. “Today the temperatures really suited us. It was nice and fresh, not too cold, not too hot. The car was in an absolute mega window.”

But overall he was happy that Mercedes finally seem to be back on the right path after a torrid spell in the wilderness.

“We just need to chip away,” he told Sky Sports F1. "We're really good at grinding. “Once there is a setup direction and a development direction, we just go for it.

“There’s such a long way to go in order to catch Red Bull and we just need to grind away, [but] it’s a good moment to see that the development direction is right.”

Today's result means that Mercedes have moved ahead of Aston Martin into second place in the constructors standings by 18 points, reversing the former balance of power between the two squads.

However they are 135 points behind runaway leaders Red Bull, with Verstappen now 53 pionts ahead of his nearest rival in the in the drivers championship.

Hamilton has pulled to within 12 points of Alonso after the Spanish driver's run of top four finishes this season came to an end with P7 in his home race today.

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