Mercedes are just one ‘final ingredient’ away from returning to F1 title fight

Henry Valantine
George Russell's Mercedes heads a train of cars. Spa-Francorchamps August 2022.

Marc Priestley believes Mercedes have nine out of 10 of the ingredients to succeed this season, and will get back to fighting to race victories once they find that last missing piece.

The Silver Arrows had been the dominant force in Formula 1 since the start of the turbo hybrid era in 2014, before the sweeping regulation changes in time for this season saw the field effectively have to start from scratch when it came to building their 2022 cars.

Mercedes have lagged behind Red Bull and Ferrari so far this season, sometimes by more than a second per lap in qualifying trim, having been plagued by porpoising earlier in the year, which caused both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell significant pain – both physically and in terms of hindering the W13’s overall performance.

The gap has narrowed as the year has progressed though, with Russell in particular having been consistently in and among the podium places, and Mercedes are keeping the pressure on Ferrari for second in the Constructors’ Championship, heading into the final six races.

Former McLaren mechanic Priestley said every team trying to finesse their car down to the last detail is a part of the “culture” of Formula 1, and Mercedes are not too far away from getting the balance right.

“All the best teams are looking for marginal gains, where you’re just looking for a 1% improvement on every single thing that you do. And that’s from the drivers, to the pitstop crew, to everybody,” Priestley explained on the PitStop Podcast.

“If you can improve by 1% over what you did yesterday, that gradually moves you forward. I think that’s what Mercedes has been really impressive with this year.

“Because to win a World Championship is an indescribably difficult thing to do, you need so many elements to be perfect to make it happen.

“It’s like the ingredients of a cake. If you’ve got nine out of 10, you’re going to get an average cake, it’s not going to taste quite right or it won’t rise, you need all 10.

“And over the last seven years or so, I think Mercedes and Lewis have pretty much had all 10 – they’ve got everything right, they’ve got the whole package. And that’s why they’ve been so dominant.

“This year, they’ve still got nine out of 10, but the car hasn’t quite been right. They’ve still got the right team, the right people, the resources in the right place, the right team culture, they’ve got the right attitude, all of those things are still there that made them champions for seven years on the trot.

“And I think just the fact they didn’t quite get the car right with this changing set of regulations. Yes, it means they’re not at the very top, but because everything else is there, they’ll get there. And they’ll gradually incrementally improve the car until the final ingredient is back in place. And you know, it’s much easier to go that way round, I think, than ‘stumble’ across a great car.”

Signs of progress are there at Mercedes

Mercedes have not yet taken to the top step so far this season, but the way they have reeled Red Bull and Ferrari in on some circuits should give them enough encouragement for them to chase at least one win before the end of the year.

The outright pace they had at Zandvoort should prove they do have a winning car in there somewhere, with Russell predicting that October’s United States Grand Prix in Austin could provide them with their next best chance to succeed, predicting the Circuit of The Americas’ layout could play into their hands.

Hamilton too has vowed to put his all into helping his team progress and get back to winning ways, so much so that he now plans on extending his career to do so.

Of course, the main focus for the teams has likely shifted to getting their 2023 cars right and being competitive from the off, and Mercedes should not be ruled out of the conversation for forcing their way back into the fight next year, even if they cannot do anything about this year.

Read more: Mario Andretti: IndyCar deserves points increase in FIA’s Super Licence system