Jenson Button suspects that if Mercedes were to win a race in 2022, it needed to have happened in Mexico.
The eight-time consecutive former Constructors’ champions have not only lost their title this year to Red Bull, they have done so without notching up a single victory.
Only two teams have tasted success, Red Bull on 16 occasions – Max Verstappen 14, Sergio Perez two – and Ferrari four times, with three of those going to Charles Leclerc and the other to Carlos Sainz.
It has turned into a case of so near and yet so far at Mercedes, who have improved following a dismal start to the campaign and have now finished second in five races – including the last two, in which Lewis Hamilton followed home Verstappen.
The latest, the Mexican Grand Prix, looked to present a big opportunity for the Silver Arrows, especially in qualifying as George Russell and Hamilton threatened to pip Verstappen to pole position but lined up in P2 and P3 respectively instead.
With the season concluding in Brazil and Abu Dhabi, the nature of those circuits suggests to Button the best chance for Mercedes to avoid a winless campaign – which would be Hamilton’s first in his 16-year F1 career – may now have gone.
“I think Mexico was a great circuit for them to challenge and they did, and they were so close to getting pole position – Lewis had an issue, George made a bit of a mistake going into the stadium section on his last run,” said Button during Sky Sports F1’s Any Driven Monday programme.
“So getting one over Red Bull in qualifying would have been a nice step, especially if both of them had been able to do that, and then they could have had a very different race.
“But the Mercedes doesn’t have the straight-line speed, whether it’s engine power or if it’s just efficiency of the way they have designed their car with downforce, so when they run high downforce it’s a bit of an issue.
“I think Abu Dhabi in terms of the circuit, the mechanical grip you need, they do have that in the car. But the problem is you exit hairpins onto a long straight, which will hurt them.
“It will be tricky for them to fight for a victory. Smoother circuits, again, are best for them because they can get the car even lower and get that downforce package really working with the ground-effect.
“So there is definitely hope, but I think Mexico was probably their best chance. But they will be in the mix, definitely, over the next couple [of races].”