Rebuilding for Results – Mercedes’ Comeback Continues With 27-Point Finish at Austrian GP
A long way to go for Mercedes, but their early season woes finally seem behind them
Starting eighth on the grid, Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton powered through to his third successive podium in the Formula 1 2022 Championship on Sunday, following a heroic round-the-clock effort from his engineering crew.
Hamilton’s fortunes took a slow and steady upturn through the race, as he battled through four positions to reach P4 by lap 53. Teammate Goerge Russell, however, faced an early incident that may have ultimately been beneficial to the Silver Arrows, as his left front tyre sent Red Bull #2 Sergio Perez spinning off the track limits:
The crash occurred during the very first lap, at the infamous turn 4 of the Red Bull Ring – a corner famous for causing wheel-to-wheel incidents, such as a Lap 40 collision between Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel, and an earlier 2020 incident featuring Alex Albon and Hamilton.
Crediting The Team
One of the race’s biggest incidents saw Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz drop from P3 to a DNF after his engine dramatically burst into flames, while teammate Charles Leclerc fought through reliability issues of his own for a hard-won victory.
Mercedes’ situation could not be any more different. After spending the first leg of the season battling with aero issues and plenty of engineering setbacks, boss Toto Wolff’s steadfast repeated faith in his team seems to have paid off – much to Hamilton’s delight and pride.
The 37-year-old champion crashed hard through Turn 7 during Qualifying 2, forcing the car into a slide to minimize damage. The car, however, sustained a hard smack to its right side that heavily damaging the front right suspension.
“We were looking so good in qualifying and then I crashed, and it was about getting your head around that,” said Hamiton after the race.
“The team worked so hard to build a new car for me. Naturally that affects everything, it affects our budget, that affects so many people who have to build new parts so that’s never a good feeling so to get up there and get some good points for the team is hopefully a small token of my appreciation. I’m really happy to get third and fourth.”
Russell, however, wasn’t so pleased by the end of the race, despite securing a serious P4 finish.
“I had Carlos ahead of me, and Checo on the clean line on the outside,” recounted Russell, revisiting the collision from Lap 1 which resulted in a 5-second penalty. He served this setback while in the pits on Lap 12, giving up his P4 to Esteban Ocon – who made a top quality finish in P5.
“Once he turned in, I knew he was going to make contact,” lamented Russell. “I was already on the limit with my car… the angle he was coming with, I couldn’t do more.”
Post-race in Austria with the Boss 😁🐺😂 pic.twitter.com/jALtBb18g8— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) July 10, 2022
Wolff, on the other hand, seemed to offer a mix of optimism and calculated cautiousness, whilst enjoying the Grand Prix with his family. Despite a good finish, both Mercedes cars were nearly a minute off Leclerc’s winning race pace – proving that despite better form, the German team had plenty of room for growth.
“We’re just missing a few tenths here and there,” admitted the team boss while being quizzed by media after the race. “I think we’ve halved the gap over the last few months. If – which we didn’t – start in the top six, we could have held on to Max [Verstappen]. For sure, [the crash] didn’t help. We did two floors out of three, which was a ‘rustic’ job… the guys did a great job, but we were still on the wrong foot straight from the get-go. We weren’t expecting great results given the nature of the track – I’m okay, and think we just need to continue grinding away.”
Preparing For The Grand Prix De France
Formula 1’s next outing takes the grid to the Circuit Paul Ricard – a classic, well-balanced mix of high, medium, and low speed corners, making it one of the world’s most-used test tracks in history. Such conditions favour Mercedes’ well-balanced approach towards engineering their racecars – something that Wolff agrees with as well.
“Ricard should be okay, it’s a smooth circuit with fast corners – much like Silverstone. On paper, atleast, I think we can have a good performance there, but we’re lacking speed. We’re much too draggy – especially Russell’s car, and we need more power – perhaps it’s the altitude of the last few races.”
While Mercedes has their technical challenges cut out for them across the next two weeks, there’s no doubt that team morale has finally made its way back – with Hamilton’s familiar grin now returning after a long absence.
“It’s actually good,” enthuses Wolff regarding his team’s confidence at the season’s mid-point. “We’re seeing that we’re starting to chip away performance from the leaders, which is important.
We’ve found ourselves at a point which we’ve always discussed – that after winning eight titles in a row, the series will eventually break. We want to make sure it’s a blip, and not a longer cycle.”
(Featured Image Credits: Formula 1, FIA)