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Formula 1

Mercedes F1 title bid ‘a very long shot’ to even think about

by Josh Suttill
3 min read

It’s a “very long shot” for Mercedes “to even think about being in contention for any of the championships” in the 2022 Formula 1 season on the evidence of the Bahrain Grand Prix, believes Toto Wolff.

The winner of the last eight consecutive F1 constructors’ championships still ended up third and fourth at Sakhir with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell but owed that result to the last-gasp retirements of the Red Bulls.

Wolff felt that in an uneventful race “fifth and sixth would have been a reflection of where we are”.

Mercedes was not on the pace of either Ferrari – which finished 1-2 – or its 2021 arch-rival Red Bull in Bahrain, and effectively used the race weekend as a test.

Asked about the value of still salvaging 27 points on a day when Red Bull scored zero, team boss Wolff said even contemplating a championship bid was not in Mercedes’ mind in its current plight.

“It’s too early to really look at the championship as it stands,” he said.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Bahrain Grand Prix Race Day Sakhir, Bahrain

“If you look at the pecking order today it seems like a very long shot to even think about being in contention for any of the championships.

“But if I look at it as a single race weekend, we probably scored the maximum points that we could have. And we need to take it from there.

“Every single weekend counts and at the moment it’s singular events because realistically when you’re third on the road you can’t think about winning.”

Mercedes realised in last week’s Bahrain test that it was significantly off the pace, suffering in particular with porpoising more than most rivals.

Wolff admitted earlier in the grand prix weekend that his team had potentially underestimated its difficulties because it was assuming it would take a big step forward when its visually dramatic upgrade package arrived for the second test, intimating that had Mercedes analysed its data from test one differently it would have realised its issue sooner.

Having lagged behind Red Bull and Ferrari all weekend, qualifying only fifth with Hamilton and ninth with Russell, Mercedes approached the race as an extended test.

It had already tried a variety of set-ups and tyre tactics on its cars through the weekend and also experimented in the race.

An initial switch to hard tyres on both cars in the second stint was particularly, unsuccessful though.

“Putting the hard on was putting the hand in the toilet and it was really a second slower every single lap,” Wolff told Sky straight after the race, adding “lesson learnt”.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Bahrain Grand Prix Race Day Sakhir, Bahrain

But later he suggested it had still been worthwhile in the context of Mercedes’ current position.

“In a way, it was a new situation for all of us because we were somewhere in a no man’s land between P3 and P4 and P6,” Wolff said.

“Therefore you can experiment more. And I think the experiment with the hard tyres was worth it – very different to all the other strategies of the frontrunners, and obviously, it didn’t work at all.

“So more mileage, more laps, more learning.”

He felt Mercedes’ most competitive state was “on the first few laps on soft tyres”, when it was “able to hold on – if not go faster than some of the guys”, but admitted that was well as the very poor stint on hard tyres, when on mediums “we weren’t really able to extract performance”.

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