Damon Hill believes Mercedes have more work to do than Ferrari to catch up to Red Bull come the start of the 2023 season, given the underlying pace the Scuderia had through 2022.
While Red Bull took 17 victories from the 22 races last season, it was in fact Ferrari who earned the most pole positions with 12, though they could only convert that into four victories.
Mercedes ended up pushing the Scuderia to the final round in the battle for second place in the Constructors’ standings last season, but took just one win all year through their one-two showing at the penultimate round at Interlagos.
Speaking after the season finished, the 1996 World Champion believes Ferrari should have an advantage over Mercedes when it comes to chasing down Red Bull once the new year gets underway.
“[Ferrari] have got less to do than Mercedes have,” Hill said on Sky Sports F1.
“Mercedes have come out with a car that clearly they’ve misunderstood something and they’re going to have to reset, whereas Ferrari came out with a car that was pretty good to start with.
“They didn’t capitalise through the season, and so they’ve got less, I think, of an uphill struggle for next year than Mercedes have.”
Late recovery at Mercedes will provide 2023 optimism
Toto Wolff has been forthright in admitting where things went wrong at Mercedes in 2022, and that failing to get on top of their problems with the bouncing W13 early “cost us the season”, through having to chase their tails to fix this overriding issue.
The outright pace of the car was not on a par with Ferrari or Red Bull from the start and, while they were able to reel in some of the deficit over the year, technical director Mike Elliott admitted Mercedes still finished behind them in the pecking order come Abu Dhabi.
“I think the interesting thing is how we move forward from here,” he said in a Mercedes’ end-of-season debrief video.
“I think we’ve got to maintain that scepticism and be honest with ourselves that we were behind at the end of the year and, while I think we made good progress through the year and I’m really pleased with the culture I’ve seen, I’m really pleased with the attitude that has been putting every effort into moving forward, we will only see the return on that next year.”
Falling behind in the Constructors’ Championship brings a development advantage with it in the form of an increased allowance in wind tunnel time compared to their rivals in 2023, the stable regulations and better baseline performance showed by Ferrari in 2022 should, by reasonable metrics and barring a significant performance swing, see the Scuderia start the year ahead of Mercedes – but never say never.