The Formula One 2022 Austrian GP saw Mercedes drivers finish P3 and P4 bringing some hope to fans of the Petronas sponsored F1 team. Toto Wolff was bullish about the improvements the team have made to the car and suggested they’d “halved the gap” to the front runners.
Yet isn’t Wolff just being delusional?
“It’s just that we are missing a few tenths here and there”, Wolff explained to the media.
“I think we’ve halved the gap over the last few months, we understand better, but we’re still third, fourth – we’re somewhere right in the middle of nowhere.”
“But I would say if I tried to pick the positives, in race pace today, if we would have – which we didn’t – started right in the top six, probably we could’ve held on to Max [Verstappen] and not been so far away.”
At round 1 in Bahrain, Mercedes one lap pace ion Q3 saw Lewis Hamilton who qualified ahead of Russell around 0.65 seconds behind the pole sitter.
Hamilton finished the best of the Mercedes drivers coming P3 in the race just under 10 seconds behind the winner.
Last weekend in Austria Russell was qualified the best of the Mercedes drivers, but on a much shorter circuit. He was a round 05. Seconds behind the pole sitter.
However in the race, Lewis finished ahead of Russell in P3 but was over 41 seconds behind the winning time. On average that’s half a second a lap.
Granted Hamilton was lapped by Verstappen in Imola arguably the low point of Mercedes season, so if Wolff is measuring from then his point has more substance.
The Mercedes boss joked at Silverstone he was setting up an asphalt laying company because the W13 car prefers smooth surfaces. Next up is Paul Ricard and the French GP ad again Wolff is bullish about his team’s hopes.
“Paul Ricard should be okay. It’s a smooth circuit, a little bit like Silverstone, fast corners, and on paper at least it looks like we can have a good performance there.”
“We are starting to see we are chipping away performance from the leaders, which is good, but we find ourselves in a situation which we have always discussed, which is, one day, after eight consecutive titles, that series is going to break, and we want to make it a blip and not some kind of long cycle.”
Despite failing to win a race this season, Mercedes is closer than they expected to Ferrari who are P2 in the constructors’ championship just 66 points behind. That said Ferrari’s reliability issues mask the true nature of the gulf.
Mercedes have further benefitted from Red Bull DNF’s, the latest being Sergio Pérez in Austria which gifted Hamilton his third consecutive podium.