Former F1 driver Jolyon Palmer thinks the French Grand Prix will present Mercedes with a “best chance of fighting for victory on merit so far this year”.
In his Formula1.com column, Jolyon Palmer took a look at Mercedes’ situation so far in 2022.
“We’re halfway through a season where few would have expected Mercedes to have barely had a sniff of victory so far and have a best finish of third,” Palmer wrote.
“The Silver Arrows, prodigiously strong for the past decade, built a car with the all-new regulations that seems to have some fundamental flaws.
“Its level of bouncing has meant the team have been chasing their tail trying to troubleshoot their problems.”
However, Palmer noted that improvements have been made since then.
“There are signs now, though, that they are getting on top of it and are merging back towards being genuine front-runners once more.
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“In Barcelona the team stated that they had a better understanding of their car, as George Russell temporarily led the Grand Prix and Lewis Hamilton produced a pacy fightback from a Lap 1 puncture.
“Subsequent races in Monaco, Baku and Montreal made it hard to determine if the Spanish Grand Prix pace was a flash in the pan, or signs of genuine progress, with Mercedes making limited discernible progress from where they had been before Catalunya.
“This picture was muddied, though, by the nature of those circuits: they are street circuits and inherently bumpy and abrasive, which emphasises the weakness of the Mercedes’ harsh ride.
“Back on a conventional race circuit at Silverstone, and with another raft of upgrades, the team looked as though they had the possibility of winning again with Hamilton, although it was undoubtedly helped by damage hampering Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc.
“Austria wasn’t expected to be as strong, and so it wasn’t, but that was largely due to a rare brace of driver errors from Hamilton and Russell in qualifying.”
The Briton ultimately thinks the next race in France is Mercedes’ best opportunity yet to pick up its first victory of 2022.
“The French Grand Prix up next is one of the smoothest circuits, made up of predominantly medium and high-speed corners.
“Mercedes have always gone well there in the past, and it surely poses their best chance of fighting for victory on merit so far this year.”
However, first they must sort out their performance in qualifying.
“So far, the Mercedes race pace has been significantly better than their qualifying form. If they hope to win in France, they must show more one lap pace on Saturday to get themselves in the mix at the start.
“It’s one thing having race pace to match the leaders, but when you concede as much track position as they are doing at the moment, a victory fight will always be tough.
“And that is what has cost them in the last couple of races,” Palmer concluded.