The inter-team battle at Mercedes between Lewis Hamilton and George Russell was a highly anticipated in F1 in 2022, but even months after the end of the season there’s still debate on who really had the best year.
Russell finished 35 points ahead of his teammate and took Mercedes‘ only win and pole position of the season, but Hamilton prioritised helping car development early on and was the stronger driver overall once he did put himself first.
Team Principal Toto Wolff was the man with the best view of their battle, and he said the pair were equals in 2022.
“I would see Lewis and George on a par in 2022,” Wolff told Auto Motor und Sport. “We had races where George was stronger and races where Lewis was stronger.
“George got out of a car that was certainly difficult to drive. He got into one that was certainly difficult to drive as well.
“Lewis is the best driver of all time along with Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari days. Lewis went from a perfect car to the W13.”
With the seven-time world champion leading Mercedes into 2022, there were question marks over whether George Russell could establish himself in a team that has been focussed on Hamilton since 2017.
One of the hottest junior prospects ever, Russell showed the hype was worth it when he first got to F1 with Williams and dominated Robert Kubica and Nicholas Latifi over three seasons.
And he proved the step up to the front of the grid wasn’t too big for him as he only finished outside the top five twice all season, despite the Mercedes W13 struggling particularly early in the season.
It was the first time Hamilton‘s been beaten by a teammate since Nico Rosberg won the world championship in 2016.
No Mercedes revolution in 2023
After winning 15 championships from 2014-21, and only denied a clean sweep by ‘human error’ by then-Race Director Michael Masi that gift-wrapped the 2021 Drivers’ Championship for Max Verstappen as Hamilton was set to win, it was back down to earth for Mercedes in 2022.
Their radical sidepodless design suffered hugely from porpoising and they found themselves struggling to reach Q3 at times, let alone regularly challenge the top three.
However, they improved through the season and could’ve had more than just Russell‘s solitary win in Sao Paulo.
Now everything resets for 2023, and with more wind tunnel testing time than rivals Red Bull and Ferrari, Wolff said they haven’t completely abandoned what they learned in 2022.
“Revolution is not necessary if you understand where to start,” Wolff added. “Stability and a safe environment are enormously important in Formula 1. That is precisely our strength, that’s what made us learn faster in 2022.
“We simply need a wider working window. We had a good car on high-downforce tracks, like Barcelona – tracks that have few bumps and no big kerbs.
“We need to find a wider aerodynamic window than we had in 2022. In Brazil, as soon as we hit our window, we are at the front.
“Now we have to learn the lessons of why our car is so good in certain corners on some tracks, but doesn’t work on low-downforce tracks like Spa or Monza at high speeds.”