Lewis Hamilton has been warned there is “no magic fix” to the team’s problems ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The seven-time world champion is already 29 points adrift in the championship race after finishing down in 10th at the second round in Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.
Mercedes have dominated the sport since 2014 – carrying Hamilton to six titles and winning an unprecedented eight constructors’ championships in succession.
But Hamilton and new British teammate George Russell have all but written off their aspirations unless Mercedes can radically improve their underperforming car.
Mercedes’ season has been derailed by ‘porpoising’ – the phenomenon seen this year when the car violently bounces on its suspension at high speed.
The problem caught Mercedes completely off guard, and Russell said it is the source of 99 per cent of the team’s problems.
And Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted on Thursday that there is still a lot of work to do to solve the issue. “We are in a learning race and the first two weekends have shown we still have plenty to learn,” he said.
“At the moment, our track performance is not meeting our own expectations, but everyone at Brackley and Brixworth is focused on understanding the problems and finding the right solutions.
“There won’t be a magic fix for the next race weekend, but we’re pushing to steadily bring gains over the upcoming races, to hopefully move us closer to the front of the pack.
“Until then, we need to maximise each opportunity and make the most of the package we have.”
At the opener in Bahrain, seven-time world champion Hamilton finished third behind the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, but only after Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez retired in the closing stages. Hamilton’s teammate George Russell was fourth.
In Jeddah, Russell fared a little better than Hamilton with a fifth-place finish, but still considerably off the pace of the Ferraris and Red Bulls who filled the top four.
Despite the frustrations, Wolff praised his drivers’ patience. “There are various challenges ahead of us, but that’s something we relish and is when a team really shows its true spirit,” he said.
“Lewis and George are making an important contribution to the overall effort, providing feedback, spending time in the simulator and working together to help push us forward.”
Meanwhile, reigning champion Max Verstappen said he will try to keep his off-track commitments in check and focus on his day job as a racer, wary that his title defence might suffer with too many distractions.I’m not there to entertain the crowds. I’ll entertain them by doing that on the track. Otherwise … it’s going to hurt your performanceMax Verstappen
The Dutch Red Bull driver is hot property for media, sponsors and fans after his 2021 triumph, and the relaxation of biosecurity protocols could mean more demands on his time.
“Even if there is no Covid for sure I’m not going to do more … on weekends because I’m there to race, I’m not there to entertain the crowds,” he told a small group of reporters on Thursday at Albert Park ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.
“I’ll entertain them by doing that on the track. Otherwise you get upset, you don’t feel good and it’s going to hurt your performance.
“So you need to just keep it exactly the same, the same approach as other race weekends.”
Verstappen said he felt sympathy for McLaren’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo, having seen him battle through busy schedules at his home Grand Prix when they were Red Bull teammates.
“I always felt sorry for him because he was always so busy,” said Verstappen. “He actually never really got to fully enjoy it. Maybe he manages it differently now but I remember when he was here it was tough, he was super busy in the week leading up to the Grand Prix.
“So I hope for him that at least he can enjoy it a bit more now because I think it is very special to have a home Grand Prix.”