Mercedes’ performance ‘feels like our rivals have taken a step back’ – Hamilton

2022 Brazilian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by

Mercedes’ competitive showing in this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix has given Lewis Hamilton the impression their rivals have lost some of their performance.

The team has locked out the front row of the grid for today’s grand prix after George Russell won yesterday’s sprint race. Hamilton finished third and gains a place on the grid due to Carlos Sainz Jnr’s penalty.

The Mercedes drivers made their way forwards in the sprint race, both passing world champion Max Verstappen. Hamilton said his team has clearly made progress but he feels that alone does not explain their performance this weekend.

“Definitely I think [we’ve taken] a step,” he said. “We know that there’s some real changes that we can make with the car to get us back to a better fighting position for next season.

“I don’t fully understand, like, we’ve definitely taken a step forward but it’s almost like the other two teams have taken a step back. I don’t know if that’s right or not, but it definitely feels that way.”

He expects the team can continue making gains into the 2023 F1 season. “I think we definitely know where we’re going and what we need to do to put us in a fighting position for next year,” said Hamilton. “So we’ll be super, super-focused. Everyone I know is already ready to turn up this winter and put in the effort.”

His team mate Russell believes some of their gains have come from reducing the weight of the W13, which the team has been able to do as it’s solved the aerodynamic problems which plagued it earlier in the year.

“Definitely the car is a little bit slimmer than it probably was at the start of the year,” said Russell. “So that’s a bit of free lap time we’ve gained.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“Probably the characteristics of the car are a little bit better. So it’s definitely difficult to put a single figure on how much the car has improved. But I think the lap times speak for themselves.”

Sprint race start, Interlagos, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix sprint race in pictures
Mercedes have been in contention for victory on several occasions this year but are yet to win a grand prix. “We’ve had an opportunity as a team to win these last three races,” said Russell. “We were nowhere near that at the start of the year.

“I think we all feel really confident that we’re on the right track to getting back to where Mercedes belongs. I think that’s really exciting for all of us.”

“The factory is going to be pumping on all cylinders across the winter and everybody’s going to be so motivated to come back,” he added. “This result is such a morale-booster for everyone, and what we really needed to keep on pushing.

“I think if we can hit our targets, the targets we’ve set out are absolutely the right ones. And we just need to continue on this path that we’re on and see what we can achieve next year.”

However Sainz is certain Ferrari, who were far from the pace in Mexico two weeks ago, haven’t lost performance this weekend.

“I’m pretty certain we haven’t taken any step backwards,” he said. “I think they’ve just simply done a better job at improving the car and putting downforce on the car.

“I don’t feel like they have a lot of a gap to close in the winter, because I feel like today they were the fastest. So if anything, it’s us and Red Bull that need to be aware that, if we want to be quick next year in the race, we need to put some downforce in the car and keep progressing.

“We’ve seen it before: the rate of development at Merc is second to none. I think they’ve been showing all these past seasons that even if they’re leading, or they’re on the back foot, starting the season, they’re always the team that developed the most. It shows that we need to have a good winter. Not only that, we will need to develop well during the season next year.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 Brazilian Grand Prix

    Browse all 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix articles

    Author information

    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

    Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

    43 comments on “Mercedes’ performance ‘feels like our rivals have taken a step back’ – Hamilton”

    1. Very impressive how Mercedes developed the car into a race win contender. Taking into account how far back they were, struggling to get into Q2 even. Great stuff.

      1. Well, they hardly went below 3rd team on the grid, but nevertheless good catch up.

        1. at the start of the year they were below 3rd

          1. Russell bagged consistent Top5 finishes. The car wasn’t that bad. Hamilton’s dramas made it appear worse at times.

            1. Hamilton Drama+ 7 WDCs. Say no more :-)

      2. Don’t quite think so. The tech directive for sure had a significant impact too, beneficial for them and not beneficial for Ferrari. They didn’t asked for changes race after race for nothing, more than sure they knew the tech change will suit their car. Given all the limitations of current F1 (money, testing etc), it’s not easy to fix it.

    2. First and only pole position for Mercedes in 2022 – Russell. First and only “win” for Mercedes in 2022 – Russell. First Mercedes in 2022 world championship – Russell. Is Sir Lewis Hamilton The Greatest of All Time then if he’s losing to his team mate, as he has done to Button and Rosberg in the past?

      1. And by the same logic as our venerable expert, Nico Rosberg can be crowned the greatest of all time having beaten Michael Schumacher in 2010 and 2011

        1. Schumacher was always overrated and as soon as he lost his privileges (bespoke tyres, car parts, telemetry) he has been exposed by Rosberg. With Hamilton though, it’s pretty obvious Rosberg was less talented, but actually worked hard rather than partied all 2016 long and that gave him the title. That alone means Hamilton isn’t the GOAT and his inflated stats by 2014-2021 Mercedes rocketships (as was the case with Vettel, another overrated driver) mean almost nothing.

          1. Davethechicken
            13th November 2022, 9:02

            Well we know Riccardo beat Max over their 3 seasons in total points, race wins, poles and fastest laps. So he must be better.
            Ergo he is greater than Max but we see him much worse than Lando.
            So Lando is the Goat.
            What is your logical order now, from the armchair?

            1. These totals are always meaningless, because there are no FIA rewards for beating your team mate over sum of multiple seasons. As you surely know in 2016 Max was parachuted mid-season, during his 3rd year of single seater racing, to race-winning F1 team and won that very race, which was remarkable achievement. Ricciardo in his 3rd season was racing in Formula 2.0 and when he got to F1 in his 6th season, Max at that stage finished 9 points behind Bottas in a car, which was 0.5-1s/lap slower than Mercedes. That’s the difference. Ever since 2017 there was basically no even signle race when Ricciardo was faster than Max and as soon as Max did his homework (remember, he was still teenager back then) after Monaco ’18, he was unbeatable in all circumstances, so Ricciardo had to ran away like to midfield Renault team.

            2. Davethechicken
              13th November 2022, 13:34

              Armchair expert, that is simply untrue. DR was significantly faster than Max in Baku 2018 when Max moved twice ie weaved and they crashed as DR was overtaking.. Dr was much faster then, and up to that point had the advantage as teammates. Soon after that DR announced he was leaving RBR and only then, surprise surprise, Max was faster, given RBRs response to the betrayal of DR leaving.

          2. Well, no. Say what you want about Michael Schumacher but he was one of the best, He had a privileged position in his last years at Ferrari but did not get there by chance. And about his last stint in Merc, he was well past his prime and never adapted to the latest changes in F1, he might as well stayed home instead of spoiling his legacy.

            1. Schumacher could’ve actually won 9 titles if he had stayed till he was actually past his prime, he was still really fast by the end of 2006 and I have a hard time seeing how he wouldn’t have done better than massa or raikkonen the next 2 years.

            2. hyoko,

              I personally believe that Michael Schumacher was the GOAT in F1 even edging Ayrton Senna. People forget or even don’t know that nowadays and thanks to the computational capabilities, advanced simulations, artificial intelligence… teams arrive at racetracks needing a little running in free practise sessions to adjust the car which narrow the window on which the driver can make a difference unlike the era of Michael Schumacher.

              One of Schumacher’s main strength is adapting his impossible to replicate driving style to whatever material at his disposal. This required a lot of quality feedback and input from his side to adjust the car to whatever necessary for him to drive it on the limit. This has been confirmed by the engineers at Benetton and Ferrari that worked with a prime Schumacher (Chris Dyer, Andrea Stella, Stefano Domenicali, John Barnard… and the list is long) the guy is just a beast for the quantity/quality of his work.

              In his years at Ferrari with the unlimited testing and the enormous budget that the team enjoyed, Schumacher used to test the car till late at nights and then continue debriefing with the engineers. He was the driver doing most Kilometers of tests than the rest of the drivers yet he lived in Fiorano in Enzo’s house and no Ferrari driver before him ever lived there. A complete physical fitness studio has been installed for him there and you it was very common to see the lights still on even after midnight.

              It was already known that Michael Schumacher has raised the bar already raised by both Prost and Senna with regard to the work ethics of a F1 driver and he was even more data driven than both of them.

              As for his comeback, Schumacher spent 3 years away from F1 in a period with arguably the biggest regulation changes in the history of the sport at the time. He returned and found a sport completely different from what he used to know. New cars in 2009, testing ban, refuelling ban, engine/gearbox allocation, simulators… and later in 2011 with the introduction of Pirelli high degradation tyres.

              Besides, he sustained serious neck injuries in a motorbike crash at 140 mph that prevented him to make a comeback to Ferrari in 2009. Michael had a serious injury to the seventh vertebra of the neck, a fracture of the first left rib and a fracture at the base of the skull, roughly the size of a thumbnail but in a place supporting the whole weight of the skull. There was also a hairline fracture on the left side of the skull. One of the two main arteries to Schumacher’s brain was also damaged which affected directly his reflexes.

              It was clear from the first races that Michael has lost his speed and reflexes and his ability to be right on the pace from the moment he jumps into the car. However his return at the age of 41 after such severe injuries to compete against the best is impressive to say the least. He had some moments of brilliancy like the pole at Monaco or the podium in Valencia in 2012. He wasn’t either off Rosberg’s pace who was a match for Hamilton and gave him a hard time over their 4 years stint as teammates.

              Given the circumstances, I think that Michael’s comeback was phenomenal though it was overshadowed by the fact that everyone expected him to perform like he did at Benetton and his early Ferrari years when he was in a consistent challenge for championships in an inferior machinery. Rosberg for example got squeezed and consumed after challenging Hamilton in 3 years and walked away. Schumacher has been doing that for a decade in an even intense and politicized environment like Ferrari not to mention his Benetton years.

              Below is a very insightful article written by Willem Toet about Schumacher working out driving an F1 car :
              https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/driving-formula-1-michael-schumacher-some-background-willem-toet?trk=portfolio_article-card_title

            3. @tifoso1989 Have you listened to the F1 Beyond the Grid interview with Ron Meadows, Andrew Shovlin, Simon Cole and James Vowles (April 2021)? These four Mercedes big wigs were all gushing about their time working with one particular driver. And no, it wasn’t Rosberg or Hamilton. Although they praised them too, of course. There was something special about Schumacher that is hard to overstate.

            4. MichaelN,

              Indeed ! As you’ve mentioned, these guys are monsters in their own domains in F1. The level Micheal has reached in terms of work ethic hasn’t ever been reach before or since simply because the rules don’t allow it anymore.

              Unlimited testing especially with Ferrari stratospheric capabilities at the time having a Grade-1 circuit inside their factory, owning Mugello and with Monza and Imola ~ 1 hour drive from their base, working day and night with the engineers developing the car, tyre war, no forced holiday… Those days are gone for good.

          3. Perhaps age might have something to do with it, especially after being a few years out of the sport? Schumacher would’ve destroyed rosberg at peak, f1 metrics did an analysis on his blog about the effect of age related decline and lack of recent experience.

          4. Schumacher was always overrated and as soon as he lost his privileges

            LOL! You’re really taking seriously the comparison between a 40-42 years old M.Schumacher VS a 24-26 years old N.Rosberg, and after 3 years of pause?!? A very good example that what you’re saying is not real is to look at the worse years, like 2005 for example. M.SCH had 6 DNFs, R.BAR had 2 DNFs. R.BAR finished the champ with like 2/3 points of M.SCH. The big favouritism claims… are gone when you look at seasons like 2005.

      2. We know you don’t like Lewis, so you’re happy to forget that rain affected qualy is always a pretty random affair to support your narrative.

        Check the stats on Button/Hamilton for qualy front rows 9 to 23 IIRC.
        Rosberg had one lucky season, supplemented by things like the Monaco (let’s-do-a-schumacher-style-yellow-flag-incident)

        Who was the one testing the new developments in the first half of the season, when Russel was picking up more points? Yep, the man you dislike.

        This weekend – another rain affected qualy, supplemented by someone causing a red flag.

        Hamilton, greatest of all time? Hmm, he’s good, in fact very good, but do we count stats, or try to figure out a weighting to account for the car performance level, or just take popular opinion?

        1. Rosberg had one lucky season, supplemented by things like the Monaco (let’s-do-a-schumacher-style-yellow-flag-incident)

          How can we have discussion if you can’t get even simple facts right? Rosberg did a Schumacher in Monaco in 2014, season in which he lost to Hamilton. Hamilton lost WDC to Rosberg in 2016 (2 years later if you can’t count), because he was busy partying, starting like a grandma (Australia, Italy, Japan) and crashing (Baku in qualifying) only to be not intelligent enough to change settings on his steering wheel during the race, the same problem which his team mate easily solved in no time.

          Check the stats on Button/Hamilton for qualy front rows 9 to 23 IIRC.

          Button beat Hamilton in 2011 – that’s the only thing that matters and it wasn’t because of reliability or bad luck, but Hamilton making tons of mistakes that year.

          Who was the one testing the new developments in the first half of the season, when Russel was picking up more points? Yep, the man you dislike.

          Who told you that, Toto or Sir Hamilton himself? Do you also believe 2019 Williams may challenge for the titles or that X was such a hard race (after winning by 20 seconds completely unchallenged)? Because these are opinions shared by these two ever truthful gentlemen.

          This weekend – another rain affected qualy, supplemented by someone causing a red flag.

          In the same conditions 7 drivers got faster times than Hamilton, including his team mate. Why do you want to use weather as some sort of excuse for Hamilton massively underperforming in quali once again, as he did in Saud Arabia, Imola, Spain, Monaco, Baku, Austria, Singapore and Mexico?

      3. @armchairexpert – The biggest problem I have with your narrative is that it never tells the complete story, or it’s horribly judgmental and lacks anti-bias.

        Yes in points and consistency Russell is beating Hamilton, but does that really mean Russell is better over this season. I won’t begin to draw to conclusions over the reports of what’s going on at Mercedes this season but I did have the pleasure of speaking directly to some of the team at an event earlier this year and they couldn’t convey in any uncertain terms the level of commitment and leadership demonstrated by Hamilton this year with the struggles they have.

        But did they tell me what they thought I wanted to hear or the truth?

      4. Russell has had better consistency through the season, particularly in the first half. And credit to him for that. Races since then have demonstrated a gap in race pace to Hamilton (which has been there whenever the car has performed in a stable and consistent way IMO), though qualifying is quite even and swings between them.

        Despite Russell starting one place ahead on the grid, I think Hamilton has the better chance to finish ahead again today based on having superior pace.

        What we’ve seen this season is that Russell is better at adapting to a very bad car, but Hamilton is better once the car performs properly.

      5. Greatest of all time doesn’t mean perfect, and doesn’t mean unbeatable. It means he’s done better overall than everybody else. There’s always fluctuations when the competition is close. Circumstances play a bigger role.

        Facts are facts, rookie Hamilton beat double WC Alonso, beat WC Button 2-1 and beat WC Rosberg 3-1, no thanks to a blown engine. Young Nico beat 7-time WC Schumacher 3-0. Furthermore Hamilton was a contender in 2010 and 2012. He has always been at the top, and has proven himself against the best drivers on the grid. Even Senna has been beaten by Prost, and vice-versa. Max still has a lot to prove. We all thought Vettel was a phenomenon in the Redbull days.

    3. Nice to see Mercedes back in the mix. The last two races you can also clearly see corporate Mercedes launched a new communications directive towards the team. Even Toto is being charming again and positive. I am glad for them they found their way out of well basically their own toxic environment.

      1. TD039

        As I recall, both Binotto and Hans Christian Horner are on record as saying that the directive made no difference, and they did not need to change the floor of their cars.
        Are you suggesting they did not give honest answers?

        Bear in mind that TD039 altered the testing specification to better check that the car setup and floor complied with the existing regs. In F1, it isn’t cheating if the tests say it complies, but the FIA refine the testing when they believe the teams are operating in a grey area. Fans looking on may have a different view of the legitimacy of their method of getting the performance.

        1. SteveP,

          Are you suggesting they did not give honest answers?

          Horner has been known to be the ultimate deflection master, he only say things that he thinks are going to benefit him and his team, honesty is not part of the Red Bull culture in general. Binotto has also a record of giving dishonest answers, though not on Christian Horner’s (and Toto) levels but it is a very solid one.

          The current ground effect cars relied heavily on the floor to produce downforce by being as close to the ground as possible. Though being close to the floor wears the plank. Ferrari designed a mount for the T-tray similar to the one used on the F2003-GA to get around this issue. Though this time the T-tray mounting included a damper. It’s worth to mention that Rory Byrne who designed the F2003-GA oversaw the design of the F1-75 as an external consultant.

          RBR, Ferrari and even Haas were using springs/damper system at the T-tray to basically work as a suspension system. It moves up when the plank hit the ground, to absorb the energy that would go to the plank without it. RBR were using some kind of sponge to absorb the energy if I’m not wrong while Ferrari and Haas were using springs/damper systems. The TD039 outlawed the use of both RBR and Ferrari clever solutions and the only way to work around the plank wear issue is to raise the ride height of the car.

          The thing is, you have forgot to mention the second stipulation of the TD039, the anti-porpoising measure ,that is related to the vertical oscillations of the cars. Ferrari were already hit by the first plank-wear related measure that forced it to run its car higher because of the way the F1-75’s floor and sidepods were designed. They have to run an even higher ride height because of the second paragraph alone.

          The Ferrari concept is all about maximizing the ground effect while RBR’s concept relies on working better the diffuser which is Adrian Newey territory. Ferrari invested heavily into making a floor with a very low roof. Everything (PU, auxiliaries, radiators…) had to be installed as low as possible which also explains the low engine cover that improved airflow to the rear wing.

          Ferrari novel sidepods design improved the airflow to beam wing and allowed for a stronger upwash that enabled even more airflow through the floor. The downside of this approach is the drag it creates and this comes the “bathtubs” solution on top of the sidepods that reduced drag. As mentioned before, the anti-porpising measure meant that Ferrari has to run its car even higher which the floor was just simply not designed for and as a result their novel sidepods design become obsolete.

          Another thing is that Piergiuseppe Donadoni of il Corriere Della Sera has tweeted that according to an inside source from the Mercedes team, the TD039 has indeed helped the team improve its performance. Remember that il Corriere Della Sera were the ones who broke the report about Mercedes sidepodless car so certainly they have reliable sources within the team.

    4. Maybe Red Bull is cutting back on expenses to not go over budget again, now that the championship is over.

      1. I suspect they’re using a Checo spec to try and secure second place, and that’s hurting Max. That’s why they appear to be underperforming.

    5. Why are us fans always quick to down play Lewis as a great driver? Theres is opinion and there are facts. The facts make him equal atleast in championships to Shumi. Best (GOAT) for most wins. Best (GOAT) for most poles. The list of other records speak for themselves. Interms of facts. Opinion will always be personal. But ALL the drivers have an opportunity to win in F1. On the day the driver that wins with the tools he has is the winner. Whether or not the tool is several seconda faster or just a few tengths pf a second. The driver did what he should. We dont have to belittle and downplay 1 drivers achievements just to lift another drivers achievements. Just appreciate what the drivers do on the day over the weekend throughout the championship.

      1. All those numbers are reliant on the car! Schumacher had 3 years with a dominant car, which is better than other drivers had, but hamilton had 5! There are more races nowadays etc., there’s no way to say fangio isn’t better than both.

        1. there’s no way to say fangio isn’t better than both.

          I believe documentaries have noted that he spent his whole career in the best of the cars, so as you say, “those numbers are reliant on the car”

          NB. The late Niki Lauder regularly said Mercedes had “the best package”
          How many people understood what he meant?

          1. It’s the nature of F1, great drivers get great cars, and that’s how they win multiple titles.

        2. Unlike Schumacher, Hamilton spent years of his F1 career fighting internally against competitive teammates. That’s the case for 4 out of the 6 years at McLaren, and 4 out of the 10 years at Mercedes, out of which 3 we very competitive against other teams and drivers, so effectively out of 16 years in F1, he only had it “easy” as far as teammates go, for 4 years. If You also included his first title battle against Ferrari in 2008, then he had it “easy” for only 3 years. The main problem here is that people have short memory, or they only caught up with F1 during the Mercedes years.

      2. As he only had 51 races, so it was mathematically impossible to win 100+.

        1. As he only had 51 races, so it was mathematically impossible to win 100+.

          You could go for percentage wins / number GP (Fangio doesn’t come top or second)

      3. Hamilton’s statistics are impressive, and nobody would deny he is one of the best drivers in F1 today, and definitely one of the sports’ all time greats.

        However, and this might be nit picking a bit, but despite having an unprecedented run of dominant or at the very least equal-best cars, Hamilton has missed out on taking records like wins in a year (11, ranked 6th overall), poles in a year (12, ranked 6th overall), share of available points (80%, ranked 19th overall), podiums in a year (17, ranked 4th overall – although he is also ranked 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th because he did that five times).

        Does that diminish his F1 legacy? Not necessarily, but it is still notable that others have scored better with less time in similarly competitive cars.

        1. Though Hamilton also has had a lot less number one driver in the team time. Certainly in his years with Button he wasn’t, an neither in 2007,nor for at least part of the Rosberg partnership. So when the car was fast he had to share the spoils, unlike Vettel, Schumacher or Fangio or Verstappen. Not arguing that makes him definitely better as I think that’s pointless, rather that beyond one of the best it becomes pretty subjective. Including perhaps the choices made by F1metrics in what counts and how to evaluate teamed drivers.

          1. @bosyber That’s always a tough one, because people who are less enamored of Hamilton would state that Hamilton being unable to assert his dominance over the likes of Rosberg and Button is an issue for his legacy. Hamilton also ‘merely’ matched Alonso in 2007, and is now losing out to Russell. Leaving only Kovalainen and Bottas as the teammates he always beat.

            1. I know. And those that do very rarely honestly look at the teammates of the drivers he’s then compared with, and their standing in the teams they were in, thereby showing themselves up IMO.

    6. following the logic of many, Mercedes must be cheating to get where they are having been so far behind, as they had been for the previous 8 seasons!!, also regards the GOAT debate, Fangio, Senna, Schumacher, then take your pick…

    Comments are closed.