Mika Hakkinen felt it was “very strange” to see Lewis Hamilton struggling to battle his way through the pack at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Mercedes have begun the new 2022 season on the backfoot with Red Bull and Ferrari far out in front after two races.
There were some promising signs heading into pre-season testing about the direction Mercedes were heading. But results in Bahrain soon indicated that the W13 was not going to be as competitive on the track.
They benefitted from Red Bull’s double retirement in the opening race of the season with Hamilton landing an unexpected podium. However, the reality was more clear in Saudi Arabia on how much work Mercedes have left to do.
Hamilton failed to get out of Q1 in qualifying on Saturday as he started the race in 16th. George Russell fared much better as he finished sixth-fastest in qualifying and he eventually moved up one spot into fifth on Sunday.
But it proved to be a challenging race for Hamilton as he failed to make waves through the pack. Hamilton often found himself jostling for position on track with the likes of Alfa Romeo and Haas.
The seven-time world champion ultimately lost out to Kevin Magnussen after going wheel-to-wheel racing towards the end of the race. Hamilton did end up taking home a solitary championship point, but it was uncharted territory for the British racing superstar.
And two-time F1 world champion Hakkinen believes Mercedes need to act fast to try and close the gap to those in front.
“Mercedes have a significant set of problems to fix if they are to catch up with Red Bull and Ferrari,” Hakkinen told Unibet. “They need to do it quite quickly because the top two teams are going to be pushing so hard on their own development.
“It was very strange to see the Mercedes cars starting fifth and 16th, with Lewis Hamilton clearly unhappy with the set-up of his car.”
Despite Mercedes’ woes, Hakkinen is loving the battle between Red Bull and Ferrari so far.
“After two races we can see that there has been a power shift in Formula 1,” he added. “We knew from the opening race in Bahrain that Charles Leclerc is looking incredibly strong at Ferrari, well supported by team mate Carlos Sainz.
“But now that Red Bull seems to have to have solved the fuel vaporisation problem which caused both cars to return from the first race, they are just as competitive. It’s brilliant to see Ferrari and Red Bull so closely matched, so the question is now to see which one of them can develop their car more quickly. The development race Monday to Saturday is going to really determine who wins on the Sunday.”