Mercedes’ slow start to the 2022 Formula 1 season “feels like 2013”, according to team principal Toto Wolff.
The 2013 season was the last time that the German team failed to win the Constructors’ Championship, with the period that followed including seven consecutive Drivers’ Championship crowns for Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton (six) and Nico Rosberg, who claimed his only world title in 2016.
Yet the manufacturer appears to have struggled to adjust to off-season changes to aerodynamic regulations, with Hamilton and new colleague George Russell battling for race pace and appearing to be some way off Red Bull and Ferrari.
With particular “porpoising” problems plaguing them throughout early season action, Mercedes are already 40 points back from the Italian team in the Constructors’ Championship standings after the first two races of the new season.
For Wolff, it is reminiscent of his first season at Mercedes nine years ago, when the German outfit were a distant second to a dominant Red Bull and only just squeezed out Ferrari for second place in the final standings.
“I love competition and I’ve always loved competition,” said Wolff, per Race Fans. “We had a really strong run of eight years where we were leading the pack, not always, but we kind of managed our way into the lead.
“This time for me feels a little bit like 2013, where we just weren’t up to the speed with the Red Bull and probably also not with the Ferraris, but we kept fighting. This is how I feel at the moment.
“It’s certainly totally unacceptable where we are in performance. We are third on the road and sometimes not even [that]. It’s just not an option to stay where we are.”
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have secured back-to-back podiums to kick off 2022, while Max Verstappen scored his first points of his title defense with a victory at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
The F1 season continues in Melbourne this weekend with the first Australian GP since 2019. Valtteri Bottas led home Hamilton for a Mercedes one-two at the last edition of the race before two pandemic-enforced years away.
Mercedes are working hard to resolve their problems, but Russell fears that too much focus could be placed on the porpoising amid wider concerns about the car. The 24-year-old, who replaced Bottas as Hamilton’s partner ahead of the season, believes that “a rethink” may be required.
Russell explained: “We have the porpoising issue. The only way to run is to raise the car very high. And obviously with this ground effect car we lose all of the downforce.
“So we know that if we can get the car on the ground there is a huge chunk of lap time there. But we can’t achieve at the moment. It’s all well and good saying that, but we can’t physically achieve that right now. So we need to have a rethink.
“It’s tricky because we’re putting all of our effort into solving this porpoising issue and it’s not allowing us to focus on other things. As a driver it’s not allowing me to focus on the driving as much.
“The fine-tuning of the balance, the set-up, we can’t really do because all of our emphasis is on solving this issue. So we’ve got work to do.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.