Wolff responds to rumour about Hamilton and Russell amid Mercedes woes

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes they are over half a second slower than Red Bull Racing and Ferrari.

2022 hasn’t started at all how the Mercedes F1 Team would’ve envisaged, with them sitting third in the constructors’ championship after seven rounds.

The eight-time defending World Champions have struggled getting to grips with the new regulations, specifically their porpoising issue on the W13.

The Spanish Grand Prix, however, appeared to be a turning point for the Silver Arrows, as the team finally conquered their bouncing dilemma.

Both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were much more competitive in Spain, with Hamilton actually being the fastest car on track during the majority of the race.

Monaco though was another frustrating weekend for the German team, who were well off the pace of both Red Bull Racing and Ferrari.

Whilst the car struggles to perform, Russell has been one of the standout performers so far in 2022, despite it being his first season at Mercedes.

The Brit has already secured multiple podium finishes, and has also outperformed his vastly more experienced team-mate on a regular basis.

Despite Mercedes being so far off the pace, Russell is still in touching distance of the title leaders.

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The former Williams driver sits fourth in the standings, two places higher than his British team-mate.

Hamilton has found the going tough, the seven-time World Champion has suffered from bad luck at virtually every GP to date this season.

The 37-year-old received another dose of bad luck at the Circuit de Monaco, where he was stuck behind both Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.

The latter slowed the pace down by almost five seconds per lap, ending Hamilton’s hopes of a top six finish.

Had he not been caught behind the Alpine’s, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes Hamilton would’ve been in the British battle between Russell and Lando Norris.

“I think when you look at the bad spells that Lewis had – I mean look at the race today, stuck again, contact with Esteban [Ocon], stuck behind Fernando [Alonso],” said Wolff.

“The red flag yesterday in qualifying and then you know what happens in races before. I think the pendulum will swing so that these unlucky situations will stop with Lewis,

“He could have been right there and closed on Lando’s [Norris] pit stop window or even fight with George and Lando in the front because that was his pace.”

The performance of the W13 has varied drastically from circuit to circuit, with the team fighting for a top four at certain rounds, and simply a top eight at others.

The variation on the W13’s pace has been a “huge annoyance” for Wolff, especially when they have such a talented line-up.

The Mercedes boss admitted after Monaco that at the moment they are the “third team”.

“If the problem is that we can say well that this is a track where it’s going a little bit better like it was in Barcelona or a track that is worse like in Monaco,” Wolff continued.

“I think we are the third team. We are not second and we are not fourth.

“We have two extremely strong drivers but it’s a huge annoyance for all of us that the gap is about the same.

“If you are looking at it optimistically it’s five-tenths, if you are looking at it pessimistically it’s more like eight-tenths. And that is clearly for all of us at Mercedes, not acceptable.”

With the team’s performance being as unpredictable as it has been, both Mercedes drivers have fared significantly differently so far in 2022.

Whilst Hamilton has suffered from a magnitude of bad luck, Russell has been able to perform more consistently.

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It’s already led to speculation that Russell is in fact the “team leader”, and that Hamilton isn’t on his pace.

Wolff firmly disagrees with the rumours surrounding his drivers.

“They are very much on the same pace,” he maintained.

“One practice the one leads, then the other, and that is great how also they work together to get our car straight, because we need to get that car straight.”