Looking at the statistics from the 2022 season, it is easy to conclude that George Russell had the measure of Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
Russell won a race; Hamilton didn't. Russell took a pole position; Hamilton didn't. Russell scored 275 points and finished fourth in the Drivers' Championship; Hamilton ended up sixth with 240 points.
However, the statistics tell only half the story, and while Russell finished ahead of Hamilton several times during 2022, the younger Briton's advantage came mainly in the first half of the season. Over the course of the year, the balance started to tip in favour of Hamilton.
Hamilton vs. Russell 2022
|Highest qualifying position
|Highest race finish
|Wins (not including Sprint races)
|Final Championship position
Hamilton's tricky assignment
Mercedes began 2022 in a difficult position with their new W13. Some underwhelming performances in winter testing prompted some to suggest that the team were sandbagging and masking their true pace, as they had done in years gone by.
However, it quickly became apparent that this was not the case, and that Mercedes were genuinely struggling to get the best of the car.
A revolutionary sidepod-less design concept proved eye-catching, but didn't deliver the expected performance gains, and the W13 struggled badly with porpoising and bouncing in the early part of the season, leaving Mercedes playing catch-up with the top teams as they sought to understand their problems.
For that reason, especially in the first half of the season, Hamilton was sent out on track with extreme set-ups aimed at discovering the car's limitations and its ideal operating window.
Doing so came with the calculated risk that the seven-time World Champion would be slower than Russell, whose W13 often had a more conservative set-up.
By the eighth round of the 2022 season in Baku, Russell had three podium finishes to Hamilton’s one, and led his teammate 99 to 62 in the Drivers' standings.
With 15 years of F1 experience under his belt, along with seven World Championships, Hamilton was the logical candidate for this experimental assignment. If anyone knows what makes a winning car, it's him. Russell simply doesn’t have that kind of experience, especially in F1.
As Mercedes' revisions and updates to the W13 started to bear fruit, the need for Hamilton to take on experimental updates lessened, and the seven-time World Champion began to assert himself more, finishing ahead of Russell in nine of the 14 races from Canada onwards.
Does this detract from Russell's performance? Certainly not. The younger Briton acquitted himself extremely well in his first season in a competitive car, winning his debut Grand Prix and proving himself capable of competing at the sharp end of the grid, after having spent three years in an uncompetitive Williams.
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