Mika Hakkinen has warned that Mercedes will need to act fast if they are to catch up with Ferrari and Red Bull at the front of the pack.
The first two races of the 2022 F1 season have each featured a fierce battle for the lead between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, with Leclerc taking the win at the opening event in Bahrain, whilst Verstappen came out on top one week later in Saudi Arabia.
Hakkinen enjoyed watching the two drivers swap positions as they fought for victory in the final laps at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit.
An "evenly matched" battle, but Verstappen timed it "perfectly"
"This was a fantastic fight for the victory," Hakkinen wrote in his column for Unibet.
"We saw the very best of Charles and Max out there, and it's great to see how evenly matched they are. There is clearly a good level of respect between them and they trust each other when racing so closely.
way they both used the DRS (Drag Reduction System) to try and give
themselves a strategic advantage on each lap was fascinating, but
ultimately Charles was unable to break away from Max.
"I thought Max timed everything just perfectly in the end, although to win by half a second after 300km of racing shows just how close their battle is."
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Hakkinen reflects on "power shift" in F1
Hakkinen believes that the recent duels between Leclerc and Verstappen - as well as the performances of their respective teammates Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez - highlight a change in the competitive order of the sport.
"After two races we can see that there has been a power shift in Formula 1," the former World Champion said.
"We knew from the opening race in Bahrain that Charles Leclerc is looking incredibly strong at Ferrari, well supported by teammate Carlos Sainz.
"But now that Red Bull seem to have to have solved the fuel vaporisation problem which caused both cars to retire 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."
Mercedes have "significant problems to fix"
The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend was not such a good one for Mercedes, despite George Russell managing to finish fifth after a lonely race.
It was a particularly challenging few days for Lewis Hamilton, with the seven-time World Champion failing to get out of Q1 in Saturday's qualifying session. He went on to take P10 in Sunday's main event, coming away with just one point.
Hakkinen thinks that the Silver Arrows have to address their car problems urgently in order to avoid losing too much ground to their rivals.
"Mercedes have a significant set of problems to fix if they are to catch up with Red Bull and Ferrari," the Finn explained.
"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."
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