Ex-F1 driver Jolyon Palmer has noted how a series of costly retirements for championship challengers Red Bull and Ferrari and "bulletproof" reliability for Mercedes have combined to create a "quirk" over the first half of the 2022 season.
Winners of the last eight Constructors' world titles, Mercedes have struggled under F1's rules reset – their W13 particularly badly impacted by the effects of porpoising.
However, despite these issues and their overall pace deficit, the Silver Arrows still hold third in the standings, behind the two frontrunners but clear of the midfield pack.
Between them, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have racked up seven podium finishes so far, having also capitalised on several technical-related DNFs for their rivals.
How Mercedes have picked up the pieces
Writing in his latest column for Formula1.com, Palmer highlighted how Mercedes have repeatedly made the most out of their troubled package.
"Incredibly, given the performance of their car, [Mercedes] have still managed to finish a race weekend on the podium more often than not so far," he pointed out.
"[They have scored] seven podium finishes from 11 races, including finishing third in the last four Grands Prix, compared to 14 podiums for Red Bull and 11 for Ferrari, including victories.
"Pretty much all of this has been due to a disrupted season for the title contenders.
"Both Ferrari and Red Bull have had multiple DNFs across both cars, which has often meant that a typical battle for fifth becomes a podium battle, which Mercedes are winning out."
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Norris the only other driver on the podium
In always being there to pick up the pieces, Palmer referenced the "seal" Mercedes have formed between Red Bull, Ferrari and the rest of the F1 field.
"In fact, while Mercedes have been picking up podiums that their pace hasn't necessarily deserved thanks to their bulletproof reliability, it has also highlighted another quirk of 2022," continued Palmer.
"Only Lando Norris has secured a podium outside of the top six [in the standings] so far this year with his drive at Imola – Mercedes' most absent race of the season.
"This time last year the podium spots were far more open, with Norris securing three podiums in the first 11 Grands Prix, as well as Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel netting one and even Esteban Ocon achieving a first win in Budapest.
"All this despite the leaders hitting trouble actually more often this year than last.
"The difference has been Mercedes' metronomic winning of the battle for 'best of the rest', and effectively forming a seal between the lead battle and the plucky midfielders."
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