Ex-Formula 1 racer Giedo van der Garde says he cannot see a route back into the 2022 title fights for Mercedes.
The introduction of new regulations for the 2022 campaign has coincided with an alarming drop in form for Mercedes, the Silver Arrows no longer looking like race winners and title contenders, instead fighting to lead the midfield as Red Bull and Ferrari scrap ahead.
P3 remains the best finish for Mercedes in 2022 after five rounds, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton both having achieved that result once.
There is plenty of time for the situation to change in this 22-race season, potentially 23. Mercedes trail Ferrari at the top of the Constructors’ Championship by 62 points while Russell, P4 in the Drivers’ Championship, is 45 points adrift of Leclerc.
Van der Garde, though, feels these gaps are now too great for Mercedes to overturn.
Asked if Mercedes can recover and play a significant role in the championship, as Ferrari and Red Bull are predicting, Van der Garde told RacingNews365.com: “No. That gap is far too big. In qualifying it’s about six to seven tenths, but in the race it was constantly a second.
“It takes a lot of time, effort and knowhow to get that back. With a budget cap, that becomes very difficult.
“Sure, they will make a jump and maybe they will be lucky enough to win a race once, but I certainly don’t see them fighting for the championship anymore.”
Mercedes believe much of their problems revolve around the bouncing of their W13, a phenomenon associated with Formula 1’s switch to ground-effect aerodynamics for 2022.
So could the Silver Arrows find the answer to control this bouncing and wipe out that deficit?
“No. No, no,” was Van der Garde’s response.
There is a growing feeling Russell is able to drive with the bouncing W13 more effectively than Hamilton and so is outperforming his team-mate.
Indeed, Russell is 23 points ahead of Hamilton in the Drivers’ standings, but Van der Garde feels it is not a true representation, explaining Hamilton has suffered a lot of bad luck.
Safety Car timing benefited Russell over Hamilton at the Saudi Arabian, Australian and Miami Grands Prix already this season.
“That’s not entirely justified,” said Van der Garde of the theory that Russell is outperforming Hamilton.
“I found him very strong in qualifying [in Miami]. He squeezed out a few super-good laps in a car that is really very difficult to drive and is very unpredictable.”
Then come race day, Van der Garde said it was the Safety Car that came to Russell’s aid.
The Briton, having started P12, stretched out his opening stint in the hope of a Safety Car, benefiting when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed, allowing him to make his pit-stop and ultimately finish P5, a position ahead of Hamilton.
“Russell chose to start on the hard tyres. The first few laps he had a lot of problems with that, but then he came back. He was just super-lucky with that Safety Car,” said Van der Garde.
“I thought Hamilton was really the better of the two last weekend and Russell just had the luck. That’s actually been the case all year and that’s fine for Russell, because it’s better to be lucky than [have] bad luck.”
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