Mercedes has had serious problems with porpoising in its 2022 season W13, which limits the team’s performance and prevents Lewis Hamilton and George Russell from getting the most out of the car on track.
The eight-time world champion outfit fell far short of the pace of leaders Ferrari and Red Bull in the first three rounds of the season, but its drivers managed to finish on the podium in one event each.
At the start of the campaign in Bahrain, the seven-time champion benefited from the dramatic double retirement of the energy drink cars to finish third, something Russell repeated thanks to the errors of Carlos Sainz in his comeback attempt and the retirement of Max Verstappen a few turns from the end.
Red Bull’s reliability problems allowed Mercedes to maintain second place in the constructors’ championship, and also saw the young Briton rise to second place in the overall drivers’ standings, behind only Charles Leclerc, although Hamilton remained further, in fifth place.
Although Russell acknowledged it was “pretty crazy” to be the immediate chaser of the world championship leader, he said he wasn’t too interested in staying ahead of his teammate as they search for solutions to their problems.
“These little things don’t really mean much,” said the Englishman. “Obviously everyone wants to finish ahead of their team-mate, but Lewis [Hamilton] and I have no interest in fighting for fifth and sixth.”
“We want to work together to make up that gap, so there’s no hard feelings if he’s ahead of me or if I am, we’re not too worried about that at the moment,” he said.
“We have a bigger picture, and long term we need to catch up with the leaders, because we’re here to win,” Russell reflected.
Although the aspirations of Mercedes and its drivers are to win the title, the chances seem very remote. Regularity will be a key for those from Brackley once they have resolved their setbacks in the W13, even more so if you take into account that this is the longest season in history and that there are still 20 grands prix to go.
Russell agrees that his team’s results are better than the pace has shown, although he warned that it could be a while before the Germans figure out what’s holding them back.
“I’d love to say we’ve made a lot of progress, but I think we have to look at lap times and we haven’t closed the gap,” he said. “We know we have a lot of work to do, but I have faith that we can do it, we know the potential that is in the car, and we must work hard to extract that performance.”
“It won’t happen overnight, it won’t happen in the next race either, but I think over time we’ll get there, so if we keep picking up these results we’ll stay in the fight,” he continued.
“It’s not based on pace, but I think it’s been a respectable start to the season in terms of how we’ve managed to make up for our lack of performance,” the 24-year-old Briton said.