By Adrian Mann
Russell is currently fourth in the 2022 Drivers’ Championship standings, 45 points behind championship leader Charles Leclerc, while Hamilton is in P6, 23 points behind his younger team-mate. There’s no doubt that looking just at the results, Russell proved to be more consistent, finishing in the top five in every race so far. There are surely several reasons for this, some of them mere luck or circumstance, but Mercedes’ supposed bias towards Russell is certainly not one of them.
However, this did not stop a certain portion of Lewis’s fanbase from accusing the team of doing just that. This was especially evident after the Miami Grand Prix, which saw Russell qualify in P12, compared to Hamilton’s P6, and ultimately finish the race ahead of the seven-time champion. The main reason for this was a combination of being on the right strategy and benefitting from a perfectly timed Safety Car. George was running in P6 on the same tyres he had since the beginning of the race, and had it not been for a safety car (first virtual, then the real thing), he would have dropped back a few places once he made his first pit stop. However, Russell and the team were waiting for just this opportunity, and by mere chance it came on Lap 41, following a collision between Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly.
This allowed Russell to switch to fresh medium tyres and drop just behind Lewis. This is where Mercedes possibly made a crucial mistake, as they did not call Lewis in for another tyre change, which would have given him a fighting chance in the final laps of the race. However, this has nothing to do with them favouring one driver over another, but is simply a combination of circumstances that can happen during a race. You win some, you lose some.
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Additionally, a certain portion of the fanbase has been accusing Mercedes of using Lewis’s car for testing more radical setup changes, in an effort to find the solution to their porpoising issues. While it might be possible, this would only be done with Lewis’s consent, and because of the fact that as a more experienced driver, who is now in his tenth season with the team, he is certainly more capable of providing crucial feedback, than a younger driver in his rookie year with the team would be.
Putting all of that aside, let’s just talk common sense. Mercedes has won seven of its eight championships with Lewis, he is the most successful Formula 1 driver in history, and they are paying him more than any other driver on the grid, which puts him in the company of the most paid sports persons ever. Is it realistic to think that Mercedes would favour their rookie driver? If a driver is being paid that much, the worst thing that can happen to the team is for the Board in Stuttgart to think they are not getting a return on their investment. The Mercedes F1 Team is a business, if not for any other reason, this would be reason enough for them to provide Lewis with every opportunity to justify his salary (although there’s no question he already did that on at least seven, but I would say eight occasions).
There are many things we can discuss regarding Mercedes’ current situation, from the obvious problems they have with their car, to their questionable strategy decisions in recent races. However, one thing that cannot be questioned is the team’s commitment to Lewis. Any favouritism within Mercedes will happen in the latter stages of the season, when one of the drivers loses the opportunity to fight for the title. Until then, both drivers will get the same support and the same opportunities, because that’s the way this team operates. And presumably, that’s why a lot of us love and support it.
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