Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have no timeline for when Mercedes will solve performance issues

Lewis Hamilton admits that the problems that plagued Mercedes during the season’s first F1 race last weekend have not changed after securing an injury-limiting 10th place in Sunday’s Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

Mercedes has struggled to solve a number of problems in their car – particularly their linear speed and downforce – that have caused seven-time world champion Hamilton to fall well out of the battle for victories over the first two Grand Prix of the 2022 campaign.

On Sunday, he fought from 15th to as high as sixth on a stage, only to finish the race 10th as Max Verstappen won his first victory of the season in Red Bull.

And Hamilton was left to mourn the accident when a virtual safety car 10 laps from the end destroyed what was becoming a sensational recovery drive.

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“I struggled at the start of the race with the tire temperatures, but then it started to get better and I got hold of the guys up front,” Hamilton told Sky Sports.

“They were all in the media and starting to fall off. It was a really good stay and I pushed on. I was fine at the time, but then it hit the whole fan while the cars stopped.”

Hamilton played a tactically smart race and finished sixth in Jeddah when two stranded cars in the pitlane under a yellow flag meant he could not make a perfectly timed tire change and still get out behind the teammate George Russell.

Instead, he had to settle for scraping a single championship point from a frustrating race weekend in the desert.

“Who knows [if it was bad luck]said Hamilton. “I’ll have to talk to the team. I got at least one point and we will work hard. At least we got both points for the team.

“I do not feel that much has changed since the last race, it is only a few days ago. What I do know today is that I could not keep up with Haas in the end.

“The power they have when they came flying past me … when I overtook Magnussen earlier in the race! We definitely have a lot of work to do. But I know I have a great team and we will get our heads down and try to improve. “

Seeing the rear wheels of rival Ferraris and Red Bulls disappear in the distance is a sight Hamilton and Russell may have to get used to this season.

For another grand prix at the start of this most enigmatic of F1 seasons, Mercedes was very third best in Jeddah as Verstappen grabbed the victory out of Charles Leclerc’s grip and Carlos Sainz got better than Sergio Perez for third place.

Hamilton came into the race on Sunday after publishing its worst qualifying result since 2009. From 15th place among Williams and Aston Martin’s relative riff-raff, one would have thought Hamilton would be in an impatient mood to train into the points on Sunday.

In fact, Mercedes already fears their final position in the drivers’ championship, and points may well be at a prize this season for a team so accustomed to picking them up.

But Hamilton is far too experienced to go into turn 1 in search of a quick win. The seven-time world champion endured taking his move – on guard that it is always possible to destroy races on a tight circuit.

Instead, the driver of 180 Mercedes races – the most of any driver for a single team in F1 history – built on his experience of steadily climbing the race rankings, despite being only one of three on it harder tire mix.

Harder tires last longer but do not last as well, so it was no surprise that when Nicholas Latifi crashed again to bring the safety car out, everyone who was not tough dived into the pit for a fresh set.

Hamilton took the time to climb up the positions, but yellow flags eventually cost him (Photo: Getty)

Hamilton and Magnussen stayed out, cut into the points positions and started to find out how the race would go.

With 15 laps left, Hamilton had finally fallen behind in fifth place Russell, who largely enjoyed a race on his own with Ferraris and the Red Bulls far ahead. But the 37-year-old still needed to pit. While saying over the team radio that his tires were “OK”, Mercedes calculated options for damage limitation.

A Daniel Ricciardo engine failure gave Hamilton the lifeline he was hoping for. If he could get into the pit on a yellow flag, throw some grippier medium tires on and back out again in the same position, he could easily take Russell as number five.

But then, within a minute, Fernando Alonso also lost power and joined Ricciardo stranded in the pitlane. In a split second, Hamilton’s chance of boxing disappeared when the pit lane closed and the previous Mercedes instruction came a moment too late. That meant the Silver Arrows crew had to wait until Hamilton had the green light to complete his mandatory pit, after which the race was back at full speed.

A stop of 3.9 seconds is windy fast, yet one second too long for Hamilton’s liking. He came out as 12th on medium and eventually snuck past Lance Stroll to secure 10th place with three laps left.

Eleven points earned from a humble weekend still have Mercedes ahead of the Red Bulls in the constructors’ championship – but 40 behind Ferrari. And as Verstappen now claim points after their DNF in the opening weekend, Mercedes knows they need to increase their game fast.

“We are probably on average one second behind Red Bull and Ferrari,” Russell said. “We are making small steps at the moment. We have to take bigger leaps and I’m sure we can do that, but I do not know the timeline. We are improving as they are and we have to do it faster. ”

The result of the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix 2022

  • 1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
  • Chalres Leclerc (Ferrari)
  • Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)
  • 4. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
  • 5. George Russell (Mercedes)
  • 6. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
  • Lando Norris (McLaren)
  • Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
  • Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
  • Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
  • Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo)
  • 12. Nico Hulkenberg (Aston Martin)
  • 13. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
  • DNF: Alex Albon (Williams), Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo), Fernando Alonso (Alpine), DNF Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren), Nicholas Latifi (Williams), Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)

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