Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have not had it easy so far in 2022, but the Mercedes team have been fighting hard.
They started shakily in Bahrain, relatively far adrift of the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari, but Hamilton was on hand to claim a podium finish after both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez retired due to reliability failures.
Those issues struck Verstappen again in Australia, enabling Russell to grab P3, but sandwiched in the middle of those 27-point hauls was a nightmare in Jeddah.
Hamilton was knocked out in the first phase of qualifying in Saudi Arabia as the Silver Arrows tried to raise the ride eight of the car to counter “porpoising.”
The aerodynamic phenomenon is a symptom of the new technical regulations, but the German team quickly discovered that raising the rid height only affects performance in the corners, which is no good.
Speed in the twisty stuff has been Mercedes’ forte so far in 2022, and it has since helped them to nine podiums in the last eight races.
Before the Canadian Grand Prix, their seven-time champion had finished outside the points in Imola for only the second time since his first season with the team in 2013, and he had been out-performed by Russell seven times in a row.
Only Nico Rosberg had done that previously, which speaks to Hamilton’s immense talent over his illustrious career, as well as the abilities of Russell.
It was discovered that part of the reason for the dip in results for the 37-year-old was that Mercedes were trying out experimental set-ups on his car but, once that pattern stopped, he finished on the podium five times in a row.
Hamilton was also in contention for the win in Silverstone and the Netherlands, but Safety Cars worked against him on both occasions.
Russell, meanwhile, took an extraordinary pole position in Budapest having come home third in France, securing the Brackley-based team’s first double podium of the season.
The British drivers achieved the same feat in Hungary, but Verstappen had beaten the Silver Arrows from 10th on the grid.
And those podiums were achieved, with no disrespect to Mercedes, after Ferrari had made a catastrophic strategic error on Charles Leclerc’s side of the garage, one week after the 24-year-old’s crash in France while leading.
But, when the chances are there, you have to be there to take them, and Mercedes, with consistent performances, a solid pit wall, and exceptional reliability, most certainly have been.
The performance of the W13 has fluctuated this year between tracks that suit them, and ones that do not.
The poor performance at Spa Francorchamps was a reminder of that, although Russell’s impressive race pace had him potentially looking on for a podium before he was fended off by Carlos Sainz.
Go to Zandvoort, and the eight-time champions looked transformed into a leading team, so consistency is needed, and this is something Toto Wolff and his team will be trying to build into the 2023 car.
The Austrian has made it clear that his focus is on next season, but Hamilton affirmed after his P4 in the Netherlands that, if the team keep performing as they did last weekend, they are “going to win” at least one race in the final seven rounds of the season.
And the sport could do with that; Ferrari and Red Bull’s pace has been phenomenal to watch from those who marvel at the height of engineering and the perfection of performance, and they have taken all 15 race wins between them so far.
But even that has not been balanced due to a series of mistakes from the Scuderia, as well as a magnificent ramp up in pace that has seen Verstappen win nine of the last 12 races alone.
We had four teams win races last season in the form of Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Alpine – the last time that many teams had won before was in 2012, when six teams ended up on the top step at various points of the season.
This is the kind of entertainment that gets people going – a grid full of competitive cars, many of which have a chance to win.
This is also the reason that Formula 1 is tentative about allowing more teams into the sport, because we do not want a situation whereby underfunded teams such as HRT, Marussia and Caterham enter with little chance of even scoring points.
That is clearly something Michael Andretti believes he would avoid were he to put an 11th team in the paddock, but the more famous motorsport names we can see at the top, the better.
So, do we need Mercedes at the front? Of course we do, right up there with Ferrari and Red Bull, as well as historic names of the sport, such as McLaren, Williams, Renault, Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo – and who knows? Maybe one day, Andretti.
That, though, is very much a discussion for another time.