Wolff: Hamilton and Russell would be ‘much closer’ to Ferrari and Red Bull if Mercedes could make this one change

Mercedes have struggled in the opening two rounds of 2022, but many in the paddock believe they could still mount a championship challenge this year.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has declared himself impressed with the performance of George Russell in the early going in 2022, and hopes to give him and Sir Lewis Hamilton a competitive car as soon as possible.

Russell was signed over the winter from Williams to replace Alfa Romeo-bound Valtteri Bottas having been a part of the team’s junior programme since 2017.

The 24-year-old qualified a second behind Hamilton in Bahrain following a big mistake on his final run, but recovered to take fourth on his debut.

READ: Russell urges Mercedes to cut drag, claims straight-line speed ‘on par with Ferrari’ in qualiying

He would then return the favour by out-performing the seven-time champion by eight tenths of a second in Saudi Arabia, and finished fifth as Hamilton recovered from 15th to 10th on the Sunday.

Wolff is delighted with his driver’s progress since joining the team.

“I think he does a great job,” said Wolff, as quoted by RacingNews365.com.

“[But] he’s not given a tool to fight at the front, where he and Lewis deserve to be.

“George has proven that he has the ability of racing at the front, but simply at the moment, we’re not providing him with the car.

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“I’m very happy with his performance overall.”

Trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin has previously testified that there is “a little bit of everything” wrong with the Mercedes car at present, while Hamilton described his car as “undriveable” after an awful qualifying in Jeddah.

The Austrian agrees that the eight-time constructors’ champions need to make improvements across the board if they are to cut the significant deficit to Red Bull and Ferrari.

READ: Max Verstappen warned he could get a penalty for controversial Safety Car restarts

Mercedes have had to raise the ride height of the W13 in a bid to tackle the “porpoising” that has plagued the team this year, and Wolff believes this sub-optimal set-up is costing them a lot of time relative to Ferrari and Red Bull.

“I think we are not running the car where we wanted to run it,” he explained.

“Therefore, it is very difficult to really assess what the lap time deficit is if we were able to run the car lower [to the ground].

“I would very much hope that the gap is much closer to what we’ve seen [in Saudi Arabia], but there’s deficit everywhere.”

Russell ended the race in Saudi Arabia over half a minute behind race winner Max Verstappen and, while the team have wing updates on the way ahead of the Australian Grand Prix next weekend, they will not have their new all-important floor prepared until the race in Imola two weeks later.