Former McLaren engineer Marc Priestley believes Mercedes are in with a shout of finishing P2 in this year’s Constructors’ Championship.
Such a thought would have seemed outlandish earlier in the season with the reigning Constructors’ champions failing to build on last year’s success.
But while the team has struggled with performance issues, there has been no such problem with reliability. In 2022, just once has a Mercedes car failed to cross the finish line and even that was a result of George Russell’s crash with Zhou Guanyu in the British Grand Prix rather than a parts issue.
The reliability of the W13 has proven to be far greater than the majority of the cars on the track with McLaren and Aston Martin the next closest on two DNFs.
In comparison, the Ferrari has been one of the least reliable with the team failing to get both cars to the end on seven occasions, a record only beaten by Alfa Romeo.
What this means is despite Ferrari’s pace advantage, they are closer to Mercedes in third than they are to Red Bull in first and just 30 points separates them and the chasing Silver Arrows.
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Ferrari’s lead has been cut into following consecutive P2 and P3 finishes for Mercedes leading into the summer break. Priestley, an engineer turned commentator, says he could see Mercedes pipping Ferrari to P2 in the standings come the end of the season.
“I think it [the Hungarian Grand Prix] was quite an important day for Lewis Hamilton to sort of re-stamp his authority,” said Priestly on the Chequered Flag podcast. “After all the hype yesterday that surrounded George Russell [following his first pole position.]
“Of course, that’s great for the team, it’s great for George but if you’re Lewis Hamilton, you just want to get your elbows out a little bit and say ‘hang on a minute, I’m still the man. I’m still here’.
“He did it though. He did it well, and Mercedes, if they can continue this form, there’s a possibility they could actually take second place in the Constructors’ Championship.”
Porpoising, protest and points: The story of Mercedes’ season so far
If there is any team principal with a few more wrinkles underneath his eye this season, then it is Toto Wolff. Having masterminded a period of dominance never before seen in the sport, Wolff and co were presented with a whole new challenge in 2022.
Preparing for their downfall was something Wolff said the team had been doing but even they would not have predicted the extent of it. When the W13 was unveiled, the lack of sidepods had some worried that the Mercedes dominance was set to continue even longer.
But the reverse happened, an unforeseen porpoising phenomenon became the enemy of both the team and Hamilton’s back as the drivers were shaken violently during every race. The answer was simple, raise the ride height but in doing that, they would have lost any chance of catching Ferrari and Red Bull.
Instead, Mercedes protested. Wolff reportedly used his considerable power in the sport to lobby the FIA for change and with the argument that they were protecting driver safety, the governing body relented and introduced a new technical directive that would limit the amount of bouncing each car was allowed to endure.
While a civil war rages as to whether another updated rule will be allowed for next year’s regulations, Mercedes can at least be happy with the plaster that has been applied for the remainder of this season.
All the while this was going on, Mercedes were picking up points. They may not have been race wins but Russell’s record of top-five finishes in all but one race this season has meant that even while the mechanics and engineers were tearing their hair out, they were within touching distance of Ferrari.
It was a different story in the garages of Maranello. The Ferrari car is quick but almost as unreliable as the team’s strategists meaning as we enter the summer break, Mercedes are within 30 points of the Italian outfit.
Another day, another Ferrari disaster
Even Charles Leclerc labelled his strategy at Ferrari a "disaster" in Hungary.