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Mercedes make surprise admission after first three races

Despite battling a Red Bull during the Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes don't view the Melbourne weekend as their strongest showing of the season so far.

Hamilton Perez Australia
To news overview © XPB

Mercedes don't believe the Australian Grand Prix represented their strongest race weekend of the season so far, despite finishing third and fourth and having had both cars in a long battle with Red Bull's Sergio Perez.

With Perez falling behind a fast-starting Lewis Hamilton as the race began, the Mexican quickly found a way back past to pull clear but, as the stint progressed and the tyres degraded, Hamilton was able to close in and appeared to be the faster man as the first pit-stops approached.

Perez ended up behind Hamilton and George Russell after the stops and a Safety Car, meaning he had to fight his way past both to claim second place and, after being miles off the pace in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, it appeared the Mercedes W13 was a more competitive machine at Albert Park.

However, that's not a theory that Mercedes' Motorsport Strategy Director, James Vowles, agrees with, as he believes the characteristics of the circuit may have flattered to deceive a little.

Speaking in the team's official debrief of the Australian race, Vowles was asked whether the uptick in performance was down to finding improvements to the car, or down to the circuit suiting them better.

Mercedes: The pace goes up and down between circuits

"I think the truth lies between those two factors," he explained.

"Track to track, definitely the performance moves up and down between Ferrari, Red Bull, ourselves, [and] McLaren, for example.

"You can see teams moving up and down between all of those different circuits, as the circuit characteristics, [and] the downforce level either suits or doesn't suit a characteristic of their car.

"We've also made steps and we've been trying to make steps on our car every single race to move it forward and understand it.

"In terms of where we were though in Melbourne, we have to face the reality: we were a second down in qualifying relative to Ferrari and in the race, [Charles] Leclerc was in a league of his own.

"Leclerc wasn't challenged by Verstappen at the restart; just a few laps in Verstappen had already dropped a few seconds back. Then, obviously, [in the second stint Verstappen] wasn't there, and the Red Bull suffered large degradation on the Medium tyre but, on the Hard, were much faster."

Where was Mercedes' most competitive race?

With Russell, as the lead Mercedes, coming home 25 seconds down on Leclerc and five seconds behind Perez after the mid-race Safety Car reset the gaps, Vowles said the season-opener in Bahrain is still the race at which Mercedes were the most competitive.

"Bahrain ended up being still, to this point in our season, our most competitive race, as an example, as a gap relative to the front," he explained.

"Every race, though, that we move forward, we have a plan of action of what we need to test, try and develop on that car, and I am sure all of our competitors have the same thing, but the key is this: we have to start clawing back that gap to the front."

Mercedes sit second in the Constructors' Championship after the first three races of the season, with George Russell holding the same position in the Drivers' standings.

Also interesting:

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F1 2022 Australian Grand Prix RN365 News dossier


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