Lewis Hamilton finished 10th in the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix but despite George Russell’s fifth it is a far cry from the dominance Mercedes have had over the past eight seasons
Image: Dan Istitene – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell believe their world championship hopes are already taking brutally damaging knocks even though only two races have been run.
While the British team-mates point out it is a very long Formula One season with a minimum of 20 grands prix left on the schedule, they are both struggling to see much light at the end of the Mercedes tunnel. Hamilton said: “We are so far off the guys ahead, it feels like a long way away. We need more grip, we need more power. We’re still really down on speed and it’s just not one fix, it’s several things.”
The seven-times world champion, who finished tenth in Jeddah on Sunday, reaffirmed his faith in his team to eventually remedy the issues, but he could not disguise his pessimism as he left Saudi Arabia as quickly as possible. And it was the same story with Russell, even though the 24-year-old from King’s Lynn had driven to a respectable fifth place.
Russell said: “We are definitely not out of it but if we don’t find some improvements there is no way we will be in with a shot of fighting for this championship. We have come away from the first two races as the third best team and if we continue like this for the next five, six, seven races, we are still going to be within touching distance and there is no reason why we cannot overturn it.
“But at the moment we are making baby steps and we need to take some big leaps and we are struggling to find that silver bullet to resolve the issues we have. I have no doubt when we do that we will find a chunk of lap time but it is easier said than done.”
Mercedes have won the past eight constructors’ championships, but have failed to get on top of the sport’s new regulations and are an eye-watering second off the pace of rivals’ Red Bull and Ferrari.
Russell, who joined Mercedes after three seasons at Williams, is already 23 points behind championship leader Charles Leclerc, with Hamilton 29 points adrift of the Ferrari driver.
And it is already looking like a fight between Ferrari and Red Bull after Max Verstappen won in Jeddah. Next, the drivers head to Australia for the first time since the Melbourne race was cancelled at the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
However, Russell has forecast further pain for both he and Hamilton ahead of the third round of the season which takes place a week on Sunday. He added: “I don’t see any reason why we will make any strides forward. We are the third-fastest team, closer to fourth than second, so it is going to be more of the same in the coming races.”