Did Russell need to out-score Hamilton? Maybe not

The seven-times world champion versus the upcoming star of the longer term promised to make for one of the vital absorbing intra-team contests of 2022.

However Mercedes’ new W13 proved a blunt software for a lot of the opening half of the season. Lewis Hamilton and new staff mate George Russell discovered themselves preoccupied with the mid-to-long time period problem of checking out a essentially flawed chassis, which at instances proved a distraction from the short-term aim of getting the very best outcomes attainable.

With in-season testing just about non-existent, and observe time restricted extra tightly throughout race weekends than was the case simply two years in the past, Mercedes devoted early race weekends to experimenting with completely different automotive settings. They sacrificed most efficiency as a way to speed up their investigation of a automotive they didn’t totally perceive to start with, and which continued to shock them properly into the season.

This observe continued till the Canadian Grand Prix and tended to contain Hamilton operating essentially the most aggressive set-ups – a logical transfer as he has way more expertise as a driver and of Mercedes’ previous vehicles. However at instances these plainly compromised his efficiency, as was clearest at Baku Metropolis Circuit the place he ran a decrease journey peak than Russell and suffered a journey that was as excruciatingly painful because it was sluggish.

George Russell, Mercedes, Miami International Autodrome, 2022
A VSC interval helped Russell beat Hamilton in Miami

Having opened the season with a podium end which flattered the W13 and would take 4 months to enhance on, Hamilton was crushed residence by Russell within the subsequent seven races. His detractors lapped it up, however as soon as Mercedes resumed extra regular service, Hamilton clearly had the higher hand till the ultimate races.

Over the next 11 races, Hamilton out-qualified Russell besides in Austria, the place each crashed, and Hungary, the place his Mercedes suffered a DRS fault in qualifying. Hamilton’s race tempo was robust too, notably on the Hungaroring the place from seventh on the grid he completed forward of his pole-winning staff mate.

Because the season neared it finish, Russell made a step in efficiency which appeared to coincide with Mercedes’ introduction of its last improve package deal, which made the W13 a way more aggressive proposition. The qualifying hole between them shrank to just about nothing in Mexico and Abu Dhabi, and Russell claimed a helpful third in Brazil thanks partially to spinning off as rain fell in Q3, the prelude to his breakthrough grand prix victory two days later.

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Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2022
Hamilton took the struggle to Verstappen extra usually than Russell

Mercedes got here near embarrassing Ferrari within the constructors’ championship thanks partially to largely error-free seasons by their drivers. Nonetheless, after they did err, they did so spectacularly: Hamilton tripping over Fernando Alonso’s Alpine at Spa, Russell taking Carlos Sainz Jnr out on the Circuit of the Americas.

After the primary eight races of the yr Russell led his staff mate by 37 factors, a spot which may largely be ascribed to the staff’s set-up strategy and Hamilton’s misfortune with race interruptions in Melbourne and Miami. Nonetheless, as soon as the curtain fell on the season Hamilton had solely minimize that deficit to 25 – his automotive failure with 4 laps to go in Abu Dhabi contributing a 14-point swing.

So Russell won’t have deserved to finish the season forward of Hamilton on factors, however there was remarkably little in it, and the newcomer was within the peak of his type over the ultimate races which included a maiden victory his staff mate might have taken. He’ll go into his second season at Mercedes realizing he measured up very respectably in opposition to the game’s most profitable driver of all time.

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Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Damaging worth: Hamilton was sooner; Constructive worth: Russell was sooner

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