Lewis Hamilton has to contend with another difficult F1 race weekend in Monaco. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Mercedes team principal Lewis Hamilton is backing driver Lewis Hamilton to bounce back and close the gap on team-mate George Russell as the 2022 Formula 1 season continues.
23-year-old Russell joined the Silver Arrows early this year after spending three campaigns with the backmarker Williams team, and has consistently impressed with consistent performances and strong results which have seen him finish in the top five during all seven opening rounds of the season. No other driver can match that record.
Mercedes have been the fastest team in F1 every season since 2014 but are unable to challenge for race victories so far this season, having fallen behind frontrunners Red Bull and Ferrari after F1 underwent its biggest regulation change in a generation over the course of the winter break.
Both Hamilton and Russell have struggled with the W13 car, which has improved in recent races but was suffering from intense porpoising earlier in the campaign which caused it to bounce up and down violently on straights.
Russell again finished ahead of Hamilton during Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, coming home in fifth while Hamilton could only manage eighth behind the defensively stubborn Fernando Alonso.
The 24-year-old now holds a two-place and 34-point advantage over the seven-time world champion in the drivers’ standings, but Wolff insists that Hamilton suffered bad luck last week and has done often so far this season.
More: Lewis Hamilton
‘I think when you look at the bad spells that Lewis had [in] the race – stuck again, contact with Esteban [Ocon], stuck behind Fernando [Alonso], the red flag in qualifying and you know what has happened in races before,’ the Austrian explained.
‘I think the pendulum will swing in so these unlucky situations stop for Lewis – they’re very much on the same pace. [In] one practice one leads, then the other one, and that is great how they work together because we need to get the car straight.’
Mercedes brought a raft of car upgrades to the Spanish Grand Prix ten days ago which appeared to significantly reduce its porpoising issues, but which have not brought it close enough to the head of the park to mount challenge for victories. Wolff now believes that Mercedes are the third fastest team on the grid.
Lewis Hamilton was unable to pass Alpine’s Fernando Alonso at the tight Monaco circuit. (Photo by Cristiano Barni ATPImages/Getty Images)
‘The problem is that we can say, “Well, this is a track where it’s going a little bit better” – like it was in Barcelona or it’s a track where it’s worse, like here in Monaco,” he said. ‘I think we are the third team. We’re not second, and we’re not fourth.
‘We have two extremely strong drivers, but it is a huge annoyance for all of us that the gap is about the same. If you’re looking at it optimistically, it’s five-tenths. If you’re looking at it pessimistically, it’s more eight-tenths. For all of us at Mercedes, that’s not acceptable.’
The next round of the 2022 F1 season will take in Baku for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix over the weekend of 10-12 June.
For more stories like this, check our sport page.