The new design specifications of the cars were always going to be among the significant stories of the 2022 Formula 1 season, but few could have imagined just how big a story it would be.
While Red Bull’s racers remain firmly in contention and Ferrari have managed a huge leap forward in performance, Mercedes have struggled, their excellence in producing a succession of constructor’s titles in tatters as their cars have porpoised on the track, leaving Lewis Hamilton declaring he has no chance of regaining or even challenging for the driver’s championship this year.
Hamilton’s declaration after the Imola Grand Prix that his hopes of glory were over for this season – this after being lapped by winner Max Verstappen on his way to finishing 13th – has provoked plenty of comment, with the Daily Telegraph posing the obvious question of how, while the seven-time world champion struggled so badly, team-mate George Russell was able to finish fourth.
The paper suggested that Russell has benefited from the dubious distinction of driving with Williams, the fallen giant of F1, whose technical failings have been so stark and points total so small in recent seasons. While Hamilton has had the best cars to drive, Russell is used to trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
A key question is, can a few tweaks to the precisions engineering of the Mercedes car at least get them a few more podium finishes? The Formula 1 website noted that before the Emilio Romagno Grand Prix, the team had managed some aerodynamic and weight-saving tweaks, but no solution for the porpoising has been found yet.
Trackside engineering chief Andrew Shovlin said the bouncing issue is something the team is “still working hard to try to understand, get on top of and solve”.
For now, however, it seems that Toto Wolff’s apology to Hamilton over the team radio at Imola for giving him an “undriveable” car may not be the last.