Former Formula 1 driver Giedo van der Garde does not believe that Mercedes can have any input in this year’s title battle after a tough start to the year.
The new technical regulations have had a detrimental effect on Mercedes’ car this year, and “porpoising” has caused a lack of straight-line speed as well as poor handling in the corners.
They have a tremendous power deficit to Red Bull’s Honda engine, and the Milton Keynes side as well as Ferrari have been far superior in the opening five rounds of the season.
Indeed, Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc have won all of the first five between them, while a podium a piece for Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell has been the best the German outfit have been able to muster.
The 62-point disadvantage to leaders Ferrari, whose pace in the corners seems almost unparalleled at present, is the furthest back they have been in nine years when Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull were enjoying their final season of dominance, so the picture looks relatively bleak from a championship perspective.
There was, however, reason to smile in Miami when the pace of the car looked to improve after some key aerodynamic upgrades were introduced, and Russell led Hamilton home for fifth and sixth respectively after a largely promising weekend towards the top of the timesheets.
Their appearances in among the Red Bulls and Ferraris were transient though, and they were significantly slower in the race as the Austrian and Italian sides locked out the top four spots for the second time this season.
As such, van der Garde, who raced 19 times for Caterham in 2013, is struggling to see how Russell or Hamilton can leave any imprint on the championship picture in 2022.
“No. That gap is far too big. In qualifying it’s about six to seven tenths, but in the race it was constantly a second,” he told RacingNews365.com.
“It takes a lot of time, effort and knowhow to get that back. With a budget cap, that becomes very difficult.
“Sure, they will make a jump and maybe they will be lucky enough to win a race once, but I certainly don’t see them fighting for the championship anymore.”
Russell has out-raced his team-mate in all of the last four races, although Melbourne and Miami can largely be accredited to the 24-year-old capitalising on fortunately-timed Safety Cars, so the Dutchman is not convinced by suggestions that the 24-year-old is out-performing the seven-time champion.
“That’s not entirely justified,” added van der Garde.
“I found him very strong in qualifying [in Miami]. He squeezed out a few super-good laps in a car that is really very difficult to drive and is very unpredictable.
“Russell chose to start on the hard tyres. The first few laps he had a lot of problems with that, but then he came back. He was just super-lucky with that Safety Car.”
Though Hamilton’s sterling performance in Florida was undone by the Safety Car, van der Garde believes he was the quicker Mercedes driver.
“I thought Hamilton was really the better of the two last weekend and Russell just had the luck. That’s actually been the case all year and that’s fine for Russell, because it’s better to be lucky than [have] bad luck.”
Russell sits fourth in the Drivers’ Standings at present, 23 points clear of sixth-placed Hamilton.