George Russell admits that his Mercedes Formula 1 team has to get back to basics and focus on adding more downforce to the difficult W15.

Russell got ahead of the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz on the first lap of the Chinese GP, but he ultimately lost out to both on his way to sixth at the flag.

With Lewis Hamiton recovering to ninth from his 18th starting position it was not a great Sunday for the team, although a solid performance in the Saturday sprint was something of a boost.

“It was probably the highlight, the first lap and getting ahead of the Ferraris,” said Russell when asked by this writer about his start.

“But I think P6 was a fair result, and a fair representation of where we are as a team right now. It’s been a good weekend, having this format to be able to try different things between the two races.

“In both races the performance was very similar. So we just need to go back to the factory, keep working on the basics, which is putting more downforce on the car.”

The advantage of the new sprint weekend and parc is that teams can try different set-ups in both races, potentially coming away with more knowledge of how their cars work in race conditions and in traffic.

However Russell conceded that Mercedes still has a lot of catching up to do.

“The fact is, Red Bull are still a long way ahead of everybody. And I think it was only probably only yesterday in the sprint race that we really saw their true potential, Verstappen pulling a second on everybody comfortably.

“So yeah, we shouldn’t kid ourselves. We’ve got of course a lot of work that we need to do to close that gap with them, and get in the fight with Ferrari and Lando.”

Asked if he would have had the same outcome in the main race if he’d stuck to the sprint set-up he said: “I think it would have been the same. I think that’s good learning in itself. We’ve had two different set-ups this weekend, both of which produced very similar lap times and performance.

“So the work needs to be back at a factory and ultimately in F1, the more downforce you have, the faster you’ll go. And the setup is the cherry on the cake.”

Russell admits that it’s about getting the basics right.

“I think we’ve understood enough so far that we just need to add downforce,” he said. “We’ve changed philosophies, we’ve changed concepts quite a few times now, over the last two years.

“My personal view is no matter what concept you’re on, you just need to have as much downforce as possible. And you’ll deal with the limitations thereafter. So yeah, let’s see. In Miami we’ve got some upgrades coming to the car. Let’s see what we can achieve there.

He added: “I think there is no silver bullet, and we just need to keep on adding performance, and focusing on the basics, which is in the wind tunnel, which is the CFD, just adding downforce and maybe sometimes it’s as simple as that.”