Mercedes wary of potential tough races ahead despite recent progress: PlanetF1

Mercedes appear to be closing in on victory in Formula 1, but Toto Wolff is still unsure if his team can be a regular contender.

Although inconsistency has been the defining feature of Mercedes’ 2022 season, recent rounds have suggested that the eight-time defending constructors’ champions are finding their way back to the straight and narrow.

The Hungarian Grand Prix saw George Russell claim his first career pole, also Mercedes’ first of the season, while at the Dutch Grand Prix Mercedes battled for victory.

If not for a late safety car, or if Mercedes had followed a different strategy, then Lewis Hamilton could well have opened his and the team’s account for wins in 2022.

But, as the Belgian Grand Prix between these two rounds proved, Mercedes is not there yet when it comes to putting its W13 in the window with regularity.

That being said, a Mercedes victory in 2022 now looks much more possible, although team principal Wolff continues to exercise caution, believing his team may still have some difficult avenues to walk.

The track of most concern is the Circuit of the Americas, host of the United States Grand Prix, which runs from October 21-23.

“Our performance is fundamentally rooted in the concept car as it is, but now we have a better understanding of how everything interacts,” Wolff said, according to Motorsport.com.

“I think we can tune the car more precisely to suit and target the performance window.

“Having said that, there will be races that are better for us and there may be some on the calendar that are very difficult.

“Austin is something we discussed: it can be very difficult. We must therefore remain realistic in my opinion.

“We won’t be fighting for pole positions at all the other circuits, but at least we really need to get back to that point for next year.

“This bad [at Spa] was really necessary to understand why it was good here [in Zandvoort].

“Strange as it may seem for a high-tech science lab on wheels, the data doesn’t seem to correlate this year. And so we collect data on the track in order to piece together the puzzle.

“We’ve added a few new pieces of the puzzle to figure out for next year. But, as I said before, I don’t expect weekends like this every week until the end of the year.

“There will be bumpier circuits that won’t allow us to get the car to where we want to drive, and there will be tracks where there will be a lot of drag limitation. So we’re not going to win the next seven races.

That being said, if the opportunity to win is there, then Wolff says Mercedes will do anything to make it happen, rather than taking the safer option of retaining a podium place.

“Every day of my life I’d rather risk everything to win the race than cement in second and third,” Wolff said.

A Mercedes victory in 2022 would be good for Formula 1

Given the dominance Mercedes has enjoyed for much of the turbo-hybrid era, it might seem odd to suggest that Formula 1 needs a Mercedes driver back on the top step of the podium, but it would really help break up the monotony of what has become a somewhat stale season.

The new 2022 regulations were set to mark a new era for Formula 1 where a more open playing field was evident, but Red Bull and Ferrari have taken all the race wins so far this season.

Max Verstappen is now heading for his second world championship, 109 points ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

It wouldn’t be a good look for Formula 1 if Red Bull and Ferrari dominate again in 2023, with regulations and the budget cap aimed at making the series less predictable.

So while it would be nice for a different team to start challenging up front, a Mercedes win in 2022 would at least give hope for a three-team battle for 2023 at the bare minimum.

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