Mika Hakkinen says Mercedes can “easily” make the Constructors’ Championship a three-way race despite their relatively poor start to the season.
Having won the previous eight Constructors’ Championships, Mercedes entered the 2022 season as one of the favourites to retain their crown – but their early performances have been anything but title-winning form.
While they currently occupy second place both in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships, they are largely there through the fault of others having failed to qualify higher than fifth in any of the opening three races.
It is not only they who seem to be struggling for speed as all Mercedes-powered cars are currently being outperformed by those with Ferrari, Renault or Red Pull Powertrains PUs.
Despite this, two-time former champion Mika Hakkinen believes Mercedes can still “easily” fight for the championship.
“Lewis [Hamilton] and George [Russell] are both doing a fantastic job for Mercedes while the team sort out their performance problems,” said Hakkinen in his column for Unibet. “That’s another reason why Red Bull need to fix their reliability issues.
“This championship could easily develop into a three-way fight between those teams and Ferrari.”
Speaking after the Australian Grand Prix, Hakkinen highlighted Russell for praise following his podium finish.
“George drove a really strong race and that third place was very important,” he said.
We're giving our maximum effort to join them in the fight out front 👊 pic.twitter.com/pzl5Ny2uv6
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) April 14, 2022
“It’s really surprising to see him second in the World Championship, but his consistency and the car’s reliability has been impressive – fourth in Bahrain, fifth in Saudi Arabia and now a podium in Australia.
“It’s also noticeable he is ahead of Lewis Hamilton, although the Safety Car had a big influence in Melbourne so I don’t think that is any reflection of relative performance.
On Red Bull’s reliability issues, the Finn said Verstappen “will not be happy” having been forced to retire from two of the opening three races this campaign
“There was so much to take away from this race,” Hakkinen said of the Australian Grand Prix.
“Charles Leclerc was in complete control and said afterwards the car felt really strong, using its tyres well and giving him a really consistent performance.
“That’s what any top driver wants – a car that’s quick from start to finish and responding to all your inputs.
“What’s important is that Charles has taken two wins and a second place from these first three grands prix, while Max Verstappen has had one win and two non-finishes.
“At this level, you cannot afford to have constant technical failures. Max will not be happy.”
Coulthard has doubts about a Mercedes fight-back
David Coulthard has his doubts about Mercedes being able to fight-back and start challenging Ferrari and Red Bull this season.