George Russell has backed himself to beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton going forward, who he regards as “the greatest driver of all time”.
Hamilton has enjoyed vast success with the Mercedes team, winning six World Championships between 2014 and 2020 and adding to his maiden title in 2007.
Russell joined Hamilton at the Brackley-based squad last year after spending three years at WIlliams while part of Mercedes' junior programme.
Although his second campaign was hit by a range of issues that left him 41 points down on Hamilton in the Drivers' standings, Russell believes that he is competing on the same level as his team-mate.
“I’ve been on Lewis’s level, on average, throughout this year,” he told the Telegraph. “And I’m not satisfied with just being on his level. I want to be ahead of him. But I’ve also got to be realistic.
“I’m going up against the greatest driver of all time. He’s definitely not a bad benchmark.
“And, you know, I think quali statistics, if you include sprint races, we’re exactly the same. And pace-wise, we’re generally the same as well.
“So there are positives. And to be honest I’d prefer to be sat here without the results, but with the pace. Rather than saying ‘Oh, we lucked into a result here or we lucked into a result there’ when actually I was a tenth or two off the pace.”
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Mercedes has slipped back in the pecking order ever since new technical regulations were brought into play last year.
Its only victory in the last two seasons came at the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix when Russell secured his maiden win in F1.
Despite another year competing off the front-running pace, Russell is confident that Mercedes is in a stronger place having secured second in the Constructors' Championship.
“I certainly think we’re in a better place now than we were 12 months ago,” he said. “We’ve been working towards our new car concept for a number of months.
“We’ve cross-checked everything 1,000 times, and we’re all very confident. There’s no doubt Red Bull will start the season on top.
“But it is a long season. It starts earlier than ever and finishes later than ever. Things can change.
“For my part, I’m excited. I feel good within myself. And next year is a clean slate for everybody.
“I hope for a season where I can perform and get the results as I did in 2022, or at least maximise results as I did in 2022. My confidence hasn’t been dented whatsoever.”