Ex-F1 champion on Mercedes dominance: ‘People would have ganged up’

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes dominated the turbo-hybrid era of Formula 1, but 2022 was a year to forget for them.

A major change in regulations always springs some surprises. 2014 saw Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s dominance come to an end at the hands of Mercedes, while 2022 saw the shoe on the other foot as Red Bull brought Mercedes’ eight-year championship winning run to an end.

Ferrari were the surprise package of 2022, with the change in regulations seeing the Scuderia go from the best of the rest to a true title challenger, only being hindered by reliability and poor decision making. 

With Mercedes struggling to get to grips with the new era of F1 in the first half of the season, Red Bull stormed to both championships, with Max Verstappen claiming his second successive title in Suzuka, while Red Bull secured their first constructors’ championship since 2013 in Austin.

Finishing over 250 points clear of both Ferrari and Mercedes, Red Bull’s campaign has been a dominant one, with Max Verstappen even admitting that retaining the title was surprisingly a comfortable task for him in 2022.

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Former F1 champion Damon Hill spoke about the energy drink giant’s domination prior to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and made a bold claim about how it stacks up against the recent success of their rivals.

“I was talking with Andrew Shovlin [Mercedes trackside engineering director] about this before the race and I made the point that it’s not quite as dominant,” said Hill.

“Their dominance is not quite as dominant as Mercedes’ shift to the hybrid era. And they were so dominant, they had to kind of underplay it a little bit because otherwise people would have ganged up on them.

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“But at Red Bull, you see at the end of the race, Ferrari weren’t too far away from them at the end. We don’t know how much more they had in hand, but they were pretty close to Red Bull and also, of course, in Brazil you had Mercedes being competitive in a different set of circumstances.”

The previous era of Formula 1 saw Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes become nearly untouchable, never being beaten in the constructors’ championship and only seeing the drivers’ championship head to another garage after the Abu Dhabi controversy in 2021 with Max Verstappen.

2023 is expected to be a much more competitive season as Red Bull will be held back due to their cost cap breach penalty, while both Mercedes and Ferrari will be looking to learn from their 2022 mistakes to come back stronger, with the latter even under new management.