One of the stand out performances in 2022 came from a Mercedes driver, although it was not the 8th world titleLewis Hamilton craves. George Russell who joined the team from back of the grid outfit Williams set about his new career with avengeance. The newbie at the Brackley team scored top 5 finishes in his first 9 outings with three podium finishes before having to retire at the 10th event of the year in Silverstone.
Meanwhile Lewis Hamilton scored just 5 five top 5 finishes and with his worst finish being a P13 in Imola where he was lapped by the race leader Max Verstappen.
Mercedes hijacked by new F1 regulations
From the Canadian GP onwards Hamilton’s form improved with him finishing P2 five times and P3 on three occasions before the end of the season.
Mercedes were hijacked by the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations and failed to anticipate the inevitable porpoising problems that can be suffered by cars running ‘ground effect’ design concepts.
Yet Russell finished the season with 19 top 5 finishes, including six P3 results, a P2 and his all important maiden F1 race victory which was the sole race win for Mercedes that season.
George Russell “very self critical”
Despite the win, Russell commented in Abu Dhabi that he felt his performances toward the end of the year were not as strong as those early on, whereas Lewis Hamilton finished the season with three consecutive P2’s before he retired at the season finale.
Toto Wolff said at the time: “George is always very self-critical, which is one of the assets that make him a future world champion.
“He has now been thrown into the Mercedes works team, we keep developing the car, and if you ask me now, the final results look different.
“Like at the beginning of the year, you could say George was doing very well, and then in the last third of the year, it was Lewis [Hamilton].”
Wolff: ‘we have best F1 driver line up’
The Mercedes boss believes, “we have the combination of the two best drivers, the strongest line-up. And therefore, we are always going to see those cycles, in my opinion between the two.”
Clearly Lewis Hamilton suffered more at the start of the year given he was driving a very different beast to the one that almost saw him to his 8th championship a few months earlier.
Coming from the Williams Racing team, Russell may have found the contrast between his 2021 driver and the difficult W13 less troublesome.
Given Lewis Hamilton is negotiating a new contract at present which may well be on a year by year basis, the 7 times world champion will be holding to come out of the blocks fast in Bahrain and not give his team mate the advantage he claimed in 2022.