Mercedes believes George Russell showed his qualifying pace to be within a tenth of Lewis Hamilton during the 2022 season despite a tough year for the team.
Russell outscored Hamilton by 35 points over the course of the year and took Mercedes’ only victory of the season in Brazil. However, it was in qualifying that Mercedes felt there was more of an ability to judge the two drivers and motorsport strategy director James Vowles says the pair were extremely closely matched.
“I think on the whole it doesn’t really take us to tell you this but George did a very good job this year,” Vowles said. “He is against the best in the world and that’s your reference. What is very clear is that at the beginning of the year when we had a car that was difficult, Lewis was using his wealth of experience to help us in order to improve the car and really move us forward as a part of the team.
“George in that period of time was just really focused on learning, embedding himself into the team and he scored a number of results really that benefited him as a result of that. Irrespective his qualifying pace I think is within a tenth of where Lewis ended up, his race pace was very, very strong throughout the year.
“That’s really what we were looking for — how does he fit into our environment? How does he fit into the team? How does he work with Lewis? How does he work with everyone else? And I think in all of those he did an incredibly good job.
“It was a big step up for him from Williams, I think where Williams operated is obviously very high level; where we operate is a little bit different to that. I think he adapted very quickly and very well.”
Mercedes was struggling for performance in the first part of the year and trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin says one of those early races gave the team a better understanding of the extent of the challenges it was facing.
“Probably the one that will stick in the mind of the engineers is Barcelona,” Shovlin said. “That was the one where we made the biggest step in getting on top of the aero bouncing phenomenon. We were able to have pretty good performance but also it allowed us to see that once we’d solved that issue, there wer still other issues to solve with the ride of the car.
“It wasn’t very good over the bumps and it gave us the clarity to work on those next steps. While it was only a small step in the right direction from a learning point of view, it was a really important update.”