Mercedes ‘getting used’ to tough reality with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell slow again
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Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admits the team are “getting used” to their current position in the middle of the pack. A two-week break between the last race in Saudi Arabia and the Australian Grand Prix was a small window for Mercedes to make some changes to their car which has so far paled in comparison to both Red Bull and Ferrari.
More concerning for Mercedes has not so much been the gap to the two championship-leading teams, but how close the likes of Alpine and Alfa Romeo are to them. Having won eight consecutive Constructors’ Championships, Mercedes have set the benchmark every year on producing the fastest car on a regular basis.
The 2022 season is now uncharted territory with both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell struggling for pace. A myriad of issues have hampered their season so far and it doesn’t look as though many, if any, of those problems have been fixed for this weekend.
Different set ups were tried in both FP1 and FP2 on Friday with the later session proving to be even more frustrating for the Silver Arrows. Both their drivers were outside the top 10 and Shovlin opened up on the issues they’ve so far faced at Albert Park.
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“We’re finding it hard to generate tyre temperature here so that’s the big thing we need to work on overnight,” Shovlin said. “We were clearly more competitive in the first session than in the cooler conditions of the afternoon session, and the data we’re seeing from the car is supporting the fact we’re just not hot enough.
“If we can improve that then it’s quite possible to find a good amount of grip but at the moment, we’re in a vicious circle where the drivers don’t have the confidence to carry the speed through the faster corners, and it’s that speed that will generate the temperature we desperately need. So, not an easy day overall but we’re getting used to those this year.
“We already have some ideas of which direction we can go with the setup and will do more work overnight in Brackley to understand those changes better, so fingers crossed we can move forward overnight.”
Ferrari have so far set the pace in Australia with both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc topping the timesheets in FP1 and FP2 respectively. Red Bull have not been able to match the pace of their rivals, but Max Verstappen is confident they will be closer come Sunday.
“We’re a tiny bit off Ferrari but I do think that we can maybe make it a little bit closer,” he told reporters in the paddock. “But they are quick again. In the long run everything looked quite stable and quite nice so I’m happy about that. We definitely made some good improvements today.”
This weekend is the first Australian Grand Prix since 2019 after the 2020 edition was cancelled due to COVID-19. The Albert Park track has since been resurfaced with a new layout which features wider turns and a fourth DRS zone.
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