Mika Hakkinen believes Mercedes are currently “at a crossroads”, with only one win in two seasons having “left their mark” on the team.
Mercedes finished second in the Constructors’ Championship after a tight battle with Ferrari throughout 2023, but could not topple Red Bull on a Sunday as the team won 21 of 22 races last season.
The ‘Flying Finn’ believes Mercedes “has to become a team again” ahead of the new year, after two lean seasons by their high standards.
Mercedes currently ‘at a crossroads’ – Mika Hakkinen
With the team working hard behind the scenes on the W15, two-time World Champion Hakkinen believes there is a “question mark” hanging over them until they can get themselves back to winning ways.
“Mercedes is at a crossroads,” Hakkinen reasoned to German publication BILD.
“There is a bigger question mark over the team than there has been for a long time. After a decade of success, the past two seasons have left their mark on the management and staff. And that’s a good thing!
“You have to be angry now. You have to develop that unconditional will to win again. The team has to become a team again, develop this blind understanding. That is currently missing.”
When asked in what way he feels this is currently missing from the team, Hakkinen believes that Mercedes still centres around its seven-time World Champion.
“Even though George is entering his third season as a Mercedes driver, it’s clear that it’s Lewis’ team,” he explained.
“He’s been driving there since 2013 and has worked with many of the engineers and mechanics for years.
“It doesn’t take him ten minutes of analysis to explain the problem. In Formula 1, little things like this ultimately decide whether you’re on pole position or not.”
When reminded of the fact that Russell beat Hamilton in their first season together, Hakkinen also pointed out that the roles were reversed in 2023.
While both drivers have penned new deals with the team until 2025, he believes the younger Briton is “under immense pressure” to deliver alongside Hamilton.
“That’s true,” he said when reminded of Russell’s 2022 performance against Hamilton. “But last season, Hamilton finished third and Russell only eighth. That didn’t surprise me.
“On the one hand, Lewis wanted to show everyone after there had already been talk of the twilight of the gods, and on the other hand, George was and still is under immense pressure.
“When you’re the team-mate of a seven-time World Champion, all eyes are automatically on you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve finished on the podium if your team-mate has won.
“It’s the same for all teams – but George is racing against a record-breaking champion.”