Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have now managed six podiums a piece in 2022, but that elusive first win of the season continues to evade them.
At the beginning of the year, a troublesome W13 car was struggling so much with “porpoising” and bouncing that the Silver Arrows could not decipher whether or not they had a good car.
Those difficulties left them trying all sorts of options. They took the sensors off Hamilton’s car to save weight, they tried to install stays on the floor – some of which snapped off – and they were constantly running experimental set-ups to try and figure out where their problems were coming from.
However, finding that source has proven tricky, and as evidenced by their unsatisfactory results in the early part of the year.
It actually started off quite well in Bahrain, with Hamilton finishing on the podium as Russell came home fourth, but the 37-year-old was knocked out of Q1 for the first time in over four years in Jeddah.
He recovered to score a single point as Russell managed fifth, a long way adrift of the Ferraris and Red Bulls.
The pace of that quartet – Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc in particular – has been difficult for Mercedes to beat, especially when they are “flying blind,” in Toto Wolff’s words, as to what they can do to make their car quick.
Imola was the low point for Hamilton. He finished 14th on track with Russell up in fourth, but was promoted to P13 after a penalty given to Esteban Ocon.
This was of little consolation to the seven-time champion, who finished a race outside the points for the second time since 2013.
That record, if nothing else, is testament to the consistency and world class brilliance Hamilton has shown since his arrival into Formula 1 in 2007.
The quality he and Russell have shown this year though, is perseverance.
The British pair collected 18 points in Miami, before the 24-year-old collected his first podium of the season in Barcelona with a fine display.
He found himself battling with Verstappen and Sergio Perez, before the Red Bull pair ran away and claimed their second one-two of the year.
Monaco was a tough round for the Silver Arrows due to traffic, bumps and the imperious pace of the leaders, and while Baku proved an equally uncomfortable ride, Russell picked up the first of what would be six consecutive podium finishes for the team.
Hamilton, after enduring seven difficult rounds on the bounce, climbed back up to the rostrum in Canada, and then the circus rolled into Silverstone.
With Verstappen and Perez out of contention due to damage, Hamilton was chasing down Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, and he was catching them on fresher tyres towards the end of proceedings, making for a tense finish.
But with the 103-time race winner catching, a Safety Car brought Perez back into play, while one of many Ferrari blunders this season cost Leclerc a win and sent him down to fourth.
The Monegasque’s loss was Hamilton’s gain as he earned podium number three for the season, and this was swiftly followed by a capitalisation of an engine failure for Sainz in Austria to claim P3 again.
Paul Ricard would later be the scene of the German team’s latest milestone – a double podium finish.
Having seen Leclerc crash out, and with Perez struggling for form, Hamilton led home Russell as they made it to the rostrum behind Verstappen, and they achieved the same result a week later in Budapest, where another catastrophe for Ferrari saw Sainz finish fourth, with Leclerc behind in sixth having been leading the race.
Strategic mistakes and reliability failures have not been such an issue for the Brackley-based team this season – Russell’s crash in Silverstone and Hamilton’s skyward incident in Spa constitute their only non-finishes of the year.
What they had been lacking was pure pace, but their performance in Zandvoort was arguably their most promising yet.
Both drivers looked in contention for pole before an unfortunate Perez spin denied both himself and the Mercedes pair a run at Verstappen’s lap time, and Hamilton found himself leading going into the closing stages of the race.
However, the eight-time champions had left him out on track while pitting Russell for Softs, leaving no one between Verstappen and Hamilton, so the Dutchman took the lead on the restart.
The former McLaren driver was then passed by Russell and Leclerc as a win turned into a P4 through a strategic mistake – ask Leclerc about how that feels – but Russell, Verstappen and Wolff all felt after the race that the reigning champion would have cleared both Mercedes anyway.
Hamilton had calmed down by the time he made it to the media pen, and he chose to see the positives of the weekend – that win looks close.
Indeed, Hamilton has taken pole and won a race in every season he has contested in his career and, with seven rounds to go this year, the chances of that record ending are starting to get larger.
Monza is set to be a write-off for the Three-pointed Stars due to its long straights, and the inherent drag of the W13 is something that they are finding difficult to phase out.
But we will later end up at tracks such as Singapore, Japan and Brazil, which are all downforce-oriented circuits, while, as long as they can avoid the cooling issues we have seen this year, the heat at the Marina Bay Street Circuit might just play into their hands too.
Having said that, Sainz and Perez could be on the verge of grid penalties this weekend, so while Monza is the most unlikely place for Hamilton and Russell to win – the last two seasons have given us two very unlikely winners indeed – it is certainly not impossible.
Anything really can happen in Formula 1, and with seven rounds to go this year, there is no reason to rule out a Mercedes win between now and the end of the season.
Disclaimer: This is an opinion article and the views contained within it are strictly of the author.