Helmut Marko has suggested Lewis Hamilton may be thinking he should have retired at the end of last season given his struggles with the Mercedes W13.
Hamilton has been the main casualty in terms of performance from a ‘porpoising’ car that indicates Mercedes have failed to master Formula 1’s new regulations.
Although there are still 19 more races for the eight-time consecutive Constructors’ champions to turn around their ailing fortunes, they have been well off Ferrari and Red Bull’s pace so far.
And while George Russell, who only joined Mercedes this season, has yet to finish outside the top five, Hamilton is already 21 points behind his team-mate after coming home 13th in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
It is all a far cry both from the 37-year-old Briton’s era of dominance, in which he equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of seven Drivers’ titles, and even last year when he just missed out on an eighth in controversial circumstances to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
At Imola, Hamilton was lapped by Verstappen purely down to the performance of their cars as the Dutchman went on to win – and then received an apology over the team radio from team principal Toto Wolff for being given an “undriveable” car.
“We will come out of this.” ❤️
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) April 25, 2022
Red Bull advisor Marko was asked in an interview with Sky Sports News what Hamilton would be thinking in his current predicament.
“He was lapped by us so maybe he should have stopped last year, he is thinking maybe,” said the 78-year-old Austrian with a slight chuckle.
Marko also spoke about the pressure Red Bull are now putting on this season’s early front-runners Ferrari as Verstappen led home Sergio Perez in a 1-2 for the team at Imola.
They also had the boost of seeing World Championship leader Charles Leclerc drop from third to sixth after a spin 10 laps from the end, reducing his advantage in the standings over Verstappen to 27 points.
Asked if he thought Ferrari would be able to match Red Bull’s pace of development this year, Marko said: “I don’t think so and what we also saw, if you put real pressure on, they are making mistakes.
“You could see Leclerc spun on Friday twice, [Carlos] Sainz spun today, Leclerc again. But I would say it’s a very sporting and friendly competition between Ferrari and us.”
Also important for Red Bull is to completely resolve their own reliability issues after Verstappen had to retire while running second behind Leclerc in two of the first three races.
“It was very important after our problems in Bahrain and Australia from the engine side,” said Marko of the Imola result.
“The last 1-2 [for us] was 2016 in Malaysia, so it was about time. For the morale and everything it’s more than important. It shows we are competitive, we just have to get the package together and then we are there.
“Twice, 18 points to lose, he (Verstappen) would be easily ahead. But there are so many races coming and the important thing is we know we have such a strong package, so the championship will be very exciting and hopefully it doesn’t go to the last race like last year.”
Russell shines, Hamilton struggles at Imola
George Russell was able to get a good result on Sunday, while Lewis Hamilton continued to struggle with the Mercedes car.