‘A plain mystery’: Mercedes’ 2022 car is not a ‘diva’

Mercedes' performance looked much better in Miami as George Russell and Sir Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and sixth, respectively.

Lewis Hamilton slams Mercedes after finishing behind George Russell in Miami GP.v1

Former Formula 1 driver Martin Brundle believes that Mercedes have a lot of performance hidden away in the W13, they just need to find it.

The new technical regulations have proven problematic for the Silver Arrows, who have been suffering from “porpoising,” which has cost them time on the straight and poor handling in the corners.

The skinny sidepods they introduced in the second pre-season test in Bahrain seem to have only served as a detriment, although team boss Toto Wolff believes they will be able to use them to their advantage after they “correlate” their performance compared to the original spec at the Spanish Grand Prix.

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Their performance looked better in Miami last weekend, and they seemed to thrive on the long straights, but their pace is still fundamentally slower than Ferrari and Red Bull, who occupied the top four position for the third time this season in Florida, including the sprint race in Imola.

It can be perceived that George Russell’s pace earlier in the weekend is a source of optimism, but Brundle reckons the fact that their performance fell away as the weekend progressed should be a cause for concern.

“Mercedes were again the third best team but in many ways I think it was their most concerning weekend given George Russell was fastest on Friday and struggled for pace thereafter and the team simply didn’t know why,” he wrote in his column after the race.

“They have talked about ‘diva’ cars before, but this one is just a plain mystery with a knife-edge window of set-up. There’s a good car in there somewhere, it’s just so well hidden.”

After qualifying P12 on Saturday, Russell took advantage of a late Safety Car to box for fresh Mediums, which enabled him to pass Sir Lewis Hamilton to finish fifth.

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Though the opportunity may have arrived somewhat fortuitously for Russell, Brundle praises his compatriot’s longevity and decisiveness during his opening stint on the Hards.

“It’s easy to say Russell got lucky with the Safety Car but he had to manage the hard compound tyres from the start, keep his head when going further backwards a little, build the long-run pace as others started to fade and then call the shots from the cockpit about staying out and hoping for a Safety Car. You make your own luck sometimes,” he explained.

“Lewis wasn’t lucky with the Safety Car again and on his side of the garage there was indecision rather than the usual masterly strategy we’ve become used to these past few years.

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“It’s a tough time and eager George, with most of his career still ahead of him, is coping better with the situation than Lewis judging by radio transmissions.”

It is difficult to discern the relative performance of the Mercedes pairing relative to the rest of the field, but the nine-time podium finisher suggests that a more competent race car would highlight the talent at the Brackley-based side.

“If the car was a match for Ferrari and Red Bull, you could reasonably argue Mercedes have the best driver combination on the grid,” he explained.

Mercedes’ 18-point haul in Miami leaves them 62 points adrift of leaders Ferrari in third in the Constructors’ Standings.