Sir Lewis Hamilton wrote off his chances of winning this year’s world championship after a dispiriting performance by his Mercedes team in the sprint race at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The seven-time champion finished 14th, losing one place from his qualifying position, while team-mate George Russell was 11th, fighting back to where he started after he, too, lost ground at the start.
The 2022 season was already looking difficult for Mercedes after the first three races in which they were nearly a second off the pace of the leading Ferrari and Red Bull cars.
But Imola, as team principal Toto Wolff admitted, “marks the low” of the year so far.
“We stick together,” Sir Lewis said. “We try to motivate everyone. This is the situation we are faced with.
“We are obviously not fighting for the championship. But we are fighting to understand the car and improve and progress through the year. That’s all we can hope for right now.”
There may still be 20 races to go, but he said he had to be “realistic” about Mercedes’ position.
The lower half of the field is not where the Mercedes car sits on raw performance – it remains the third fastest in the field.
But after a difficult qualifying session in which the team were compromised by weather and circumstances, it lacked sufficient pace advantage to overtake the cars in front of it.
Both drivers managed to pass an Aston Martin – Russell Sebastian Vettel’s and Hamilton Lance Stroll’s – but those are the slowest cars in the field. And Russell spent the race behind Mick Schumacher’s Haas; Hamilton behind Yuki Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri. Very much not company with which they expected to be familiar before this season started.
Mercedes have had to reset their expectations very quickly, an experience Wolff described as “humbling”.
“A lot of work is going on in the background,” Sir Lewis said, “but it is what it is; it’s what we have. Ultimately, we haven’t got it right this year, but everyone’s working as hard as we can to correct it.”
The concern for Mercedes right now is that while they know what is wrong with the car – too much drag, not enough grip and terrible aerodynamic bouncing on the straights – they don’t know how to fix it. (BBC)