George Russell’s maiden season with Mercedes was perhaps not quite what he would’ve been expecting after his move to the Silver Arrows was announced, with the Brit likely having assumed that he’d be a title challenger in 2022.
If this was what he was predicting, then actually it’s very easy to understand why, given that the Germans claimed every Constructors’ Championship from 2014-2021 and every Drivers’ Championship from 2014-2020.
Given how well they started the hybrid era in 2014, many tipped them to be an immediate frontrunner once again with the start of a new generation of the sport; however, the Brackley-based team were anything but.
Despite the season being over, it is still remarkable to consider just how far Mercedes fell in 2022, with the side having claimed just one victory on their way to third in the Constructors’ Championship.
The W13 was woeful, with the car having been dubbed a ‘diva’ by the team.
Nevertheless, Russell was absolutely sublime from the start of the year in Bahrain and ultimately proved why Mercedes signed him to replace Valtteri Bottas.
Perhaps as a result of being used to getting the most out of a bad car at Williams, Russell was able to drive the W13 in a way that not even Lewis Hamilton could at the start of the year.
After ending the first race of the year in Bahrain narrowly behind Hamilton, the 24-year-old went on a run of seven races where he finished above his team-mate, something which saw him build a gap to the seven-time World Champion in the Drivers’ Championship.
Despite a blip at the British Grand Prix, he remained consistent for virtually the entire season, where himself and Hamilton managed to develop somewhat of a comeback for the team.
Mercedes at one point looked set to beat Ferrari to second in the Constructors’ Championship; however, it wasn’t to be.
Whilst Russell was the better driver in the first half of the season, Hamilton regained superiority at Mercedes in the second half of the season, with the argued greatest of all-time having enjoyed a streak of five podium finishes in a row.
Russell was guilty of some driving errors during the second half of the year, notably at the Singapore Grand Prix, where he hit Mick Schumacher, and at the United States Grand Prix, where he spun Carlos Sainz.
By the end of the year, Russell had claimed eight podiums, which included a first F1 victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix, a win he deserved based on his overall 2022 performance.
Hamilton, on the other hand, did claim nine podiums; alas, he didn’t win a race, something Russell can proudly say he did do.
Head-to-head, Russell finished above his team-mate at 12 races out of 22, on his way to becoming just the third team-mate of Hamilton’s to finish above him in the standings.
Russell joins Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg in the exclusive club, one that will likely get no bigger given Hamilton’s age.
But did Russell prove Hamilton’s ‘haters’ correct? Honestly, no.
His results were sublime and nothing can be taken away from that; however, it is extremely difficult to compare the two when they weren’t fighting for a title; something Toto Wolff has also admitted.
Should the two fight for the title in 2023, then perhaps the question can be revisited. But for now the only thing that can be answered is that Mercedes need to give Russell and Hamilton a car to fight at the front.