Following the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix, Toto Wolff claimed Mercedes were the third quickest team on the 2022 F1 grid. Yet qualifying in Imola and the result of the sprint race now suggests this was a wildly optimistic statement of Mercedes current capabilities.
Of course the cold and wet weather in Imola qualifying denied the Brackley team of the multiple laps they needed to get the tyres into the optimum window. Yet qualifying P11 (Russell) and P13 (Hamilton) was Mercedes worst Formula One result since Japan 2012.
Time for the sprint race. Surely Mercedes would right the wrongs of Friday qualifying and move forward.
Well no. George Russell started P11 and ended in the same place and Hamilton started P13 and finished a place lower.
Over 21 laps, the Mercedes duo were a staggering 36 and 41 seconds behind the race winner.
Further, if we look at the quickest laps during the sprint, only Alpha Tauri, Aston Martin, Williams and Ocon were slower than Lewis Hamilton – who in fact posted a faster lap than his team mate.
3 days ago, Toto Wolff claimed “it’s the third race of the season and we are not going to write the title off, so it’s just the current status quo. We are 0.7s off.”
The reality today was that Lewis was 1.7s off the leading lap time and Russell 1.8s.
George Russell complained the sprint race was not long enough for him to make an impression, yet the best he could hope for tomorrow on today’s pace is P13 and Hamilton P12.
And were the Mercedes pace repeated tomorrow, both drivers would finish about 1m 50 seconds behind the leader.
Freak results have seen Russell and Hamilton podium in the first three GP’s of the season, but given the current performance of the car – another podium this year looks to be a pipe dream.
Red Bull Racing are known to be the catch up kings for F1 ‘in season’ car development. Mercedes have never in the hybrid era had to do this and it looks way beyond their capabilities to make up the current gap to the leaders and have any remote chance of finishing P3 this season.
The Brackley team are nowhere near being the third quickest car on the grid. In fact tomorrow being the 7th quickest car looks to be about on target.