It was the 41st lap of the Imola Grand Prix. Unthinkable at least in the last eight years, the pointer, in this case Max Verstappen, in a race without too many setbacks, was going to take a lap from Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. Yeah pinch me… The seven-time champion, who was fighting for 13th place with Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri, whom he was ultimately unable to overcome, opened up and exposed the Silver Arrows present by slowing down considerably for the 2021 champion to pass. It was an internal message and to the world.
While that was happening, the race broadcast cameras focused on the face of Toto Wolff, team manager, who seems no longer has the fumes or the authority that the eight titles in a row of constructors that the brand has or the seven of pilots gave him that he harvested from 2014 to 2020.
Pérez, Verstappen and Norris on the Imola podium. Without Mercedes. (Reuters)
Wolff lowered his head and, knowing he was going to be heard by the motorsports planet and beyond, told Hamilton: “I’m sorry Lewis, I’m sorry for what you had to drive today, I know it’s an undriveable car.” English gentleman, Lewis, understanding the code, returned: “Don’t worry Toto, I just kept working hard.”
Now, beyond apologies, rhetoric, codes… what about the Mercedes? And with Hamilton? Why is he 13th and George Russell, his fellow newcomer finishing 4th? doWhy the young driver is 4th in the championship and Hamilton, who until a few months ago was the one who was about to, alone, keep the title record (he continues to share it with Michael Schumacher, both with 7), figure 7th?
George Russell is better than Lewis.
Although Formula 1 is dynamic in terms of changing regulations, this year’s changed by 80% compared to the previous one, drastically modifying the aerodynamics of the cars and the budget of the teamsto make them more equitable (level down? You could say yes).
Already when the preseason was about to start, the new FW13B was expected to revolutionize the category due to the design of the pontoons (the parts on the sides of the cars), reduced compared to its predecessors, and that promised to improve cooling and reduce porposing (ground effect by which the car bounces, which is evidenced by the pilot’s helmet moving like a doll). None of that, that porpoise movement is becoming more evident in the Silver Arrows, that no matter how many sensors they are putting in the cars, they do not discover how to fix that inconvenience that gives the drivers headaches and lowers the performance of the cars.
The Mercedes is not performing.
Another problem is the chassis. Unlike other categories, with that standardized car structure, each team, every year, you must design it by interpreting the rules. In this sense, it is pointed out that the German engineers, considered eminences of Formula 1, missed the drawing.
Finally, there is the issue of the engine. The specialized media announced that the Mercedes It was going to be the most powerful and reliable car in the history of Formula 1. There was talk that the creation of a new turbocharger would make the new silver car unbeatable. However, none of that is happening.
Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes, worried.
The theory to which the majority subscribes is the adoption of ecological fuel, the one that year after year is having a higher percentage of ethanol, which Mercedes is suffering. On the contrary, Ferrari would have somewhat neglected the performance of 2020 and 2021 with the information of what the composition of the fuel would be in 2022, and for that it worked on an engine that would be adapted in the best possible way. He is obviously succeeding.
It is not surprising that Haas, a team that has Ferrari engines, has also jumped. Nor are there complaints that the American brand is using cars similar to Il Cavallino’s. New? In 2020 Racing Point (now Aston Martin) was accused to copy the Mercedes 2019. So much so that Renault filed an official complaint and the International Automobile Federation agreed with him.
One issue that drew a lot of attention at Imola is the difference in the cars given to Hamilton and Russellespecially because of the unthinkable that there is a favoritism towards the 24-year-old over the experienced 37-year-old. The issue is that, expecting a changing race due to the rain, and in the state of near desperation that Mercedes is in, it was decided to try two different set-ups for each car, Russell’s being the one that worked best.
Hence Wolff’s apologies and the “I know it’s an undrivable car.” Will it be possible to drive from the next race, on May 8 in Miami? Mercedes has no choice. Neither does Hamilton.