Mercedes have not been anywhere as dominant in 2022 as their immediate F1 history would suggest. The Brackley-based outfit has been consistently playing catch-up with the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull this season.
It appeared as though these struggles would continue with Mercedes looking far off the pace during Friday's Free Practice sessions before a turnaround in fortunes the following day.
Having gone 12 rounds without a pole or a win, George Russell broke Mercedes' duck at the Hungaroring with a storming lap to deny Ferrari's Carlos Sainz right at the death.
Following the race where George Russell dropped to P3 but helped the Silver Arrows claim their second double podium of the year behind Lewis Hamilton in P2, Andrew Shovlin was asked to reveal the secret behind their pace overhaul from Friday to Saturday. The British engineer said:
“Well, simple answer is no, I am not going to tell you that. Because I think we actually learnt quite a lot on Friday. And it was a bit uncomfortable. The car was in a pretty bad place. But it was one of those where we went one way and realised we needed to go the other. So, it was a useful experience.”
“We’re doing all these races, we’ve got to make them live experiments. We’ve got to be learning for the future. That sounds great on paper. In practice, it can be quite difficult, quite uncomfortable. But yeah, it was a great turnaround. Both drivers have done a great job. The team has done a great job and what a nice way to go into the summer break.”
Shovlin then expressed his and Mercedes' collective surprise at Russell's pole lap while suggesting they could have dictated the race had Lewis Hamiton not suffered from a DRS failure during Q3. The Briton added, saying:
“Short answer is that the car has not had that pace all year. We’ve seen little glimpses of it if you looked at maybe the Austrian qualifying, where we were starting to do some purple sectors. But to do it when it really mattered, in Q3 was really impressive and whether it’s a case of you know us getting it right or perhaps Ferrari and Red Bull getting it a bit wrong in single lap work, it was a great lap by him and its a real shame that we had the DRS issue with Lewis [Hamilton], because we could have potentially got the front row. And if we had the front row, then it would have put us in the driving seat to win the race today.”
George Russell fears losing Mercedes seat if he is outclassed by Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes teammate George Russell is fearful that he may get his 'ass kicked' by the seven-time world champion and lose his seat on the team if he fails to perform at the level expected of him.
The 24-year-old joined Mercedes to replace the departing Valtteri Bottas after languishing at the bottom of the F1 grid with Williams for three seasons.
Speaking about his move to the German team at the start of 2022 on the Beyond the Grid podcast, George Russell said:
“Signing a piece of paper to join the greatest team of this era, without doubt, is obviously a huge moment. But if I don’t perform, and I go and get my ass kicked by the greatest driver of all time, what does it mean? Because I’ll probably be out the door.”
The Briton went on to add, saying:
“It was a huge moment, it was a huge step on my ladder, but it’s sort of like the image of the guy climbing the mountain; he thinks he’s at the top and then he looks up and the peak’s miles away, and then you get there, and there’s another peak. That’s kind of the way I looked at it. There’s a lot to be to celebrate for a moment like that, but I want to be a World Champion, and I want to win races, and signing that contract didn’t guarantee anything.”
George Russell has a 7-6 record over Hamilton in qualifying this season. Heading into the summer break, the 24-year-old is fourth in the World Drivers' Championship standings with 158 points while Hamilton stands in P6 with 146 points.