Mercedes needed to make changes in the early stages of the 2022 season, as a major porpoising problem and general lack of pace put the team at risk of become caught up in a midfield battle.
George Russell was seemingly able to extract a reasonable amount of performance from the car, as he secured consistent top six finishes and a flurry of early podiums.
Lewis Hamilton on the other hand was struggling, being lapped by Max Verstappen at Imola as the seven-time world champion struggled to find the pace of Russell in his W13.
Hamilton has explained his early season form, suggesting that due to his greater experience he was acting as a guinea pig for the team, taking part in drastic set-up experiments as the team looked to find their missing performance.
The seven-time world champion’s claims almost seem to discredit Russell’s impressive start to the season, and while the young Brit has admitted that his teammate did make more extreme changes to his set-up early in the season, he believes that this was not the only reason why he managed to get the better of the veteran.
“I feel that the biggest thing to take away from this is I was in a happier place with the car from the beginning,” he claimed.
“The big set-up changes were more to try and make the car go faster. We bought a number of test items to every single track, they were the main development parts, and they would always be alternated.
“One week was Lewis and one week was me, they would always alternate, week in, week out.
“For sure, at the start of the year, Lewis made more drastic set-up changes within the confines of the car, bit that was purely because I was in a happier place and he was still trying to find a set-up that suited him.”
Russell hitting back at Hamilton’s claims may come as a warning sign to Mercedes, who are no strangers to their drivers falling out when the have the chance to compete with each other.
Hamilton famously ruined a childhood relationship with Nico Rosberg as he struggled to cope with the German challenging him, and once beating him, to the championship.
Toto Wolff has agreed that both of his drivers have tough personalities, but suggests that this fiery mentality is part of the makeup of a champion and that Mercedes have already planned for the future of the pair’s relationship.
Hamilton will be desperate to secure his record breaking eighth world title before he retires, while Russell will not be content with hanging around as a second driver while his teammate battles for championships.