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What Zandvoort Taught Us About Mercedes' Chances Of A 2022 Race Win

What Zandvoort Taught Us About Mercedes' Chances Of A 2022 Race Win
By Eoin Harrington Updated

Let's talk about Mercedes, shall we?

This regular series of Formula 1 race debriefs has taken in plenty of topics in recent weeks, ranging from the excellence of Max Verstappen, to the follies at Ferrari, and the chaos at McLaren.

But it's been nearly three months now since we looked at Mercedes and their main man Lewis Hamilton.

After they had their best shot of a race win thus far in 2022 at the Dutch Grand Prix - and failed to grasp it - it seems the perfect time to assess the Silver Arrows, and whether Zandvoort will end the year as their best shot at a win.

Dutch F1 GP: Mercedes getting closer to maiden 2022 win

By this stage of the 2021 season, Mercedes had won five races. By this stage in 2020, it was 13. In 2019, 10, the list goes on. The last time Mercedes went this long at the start of the year without winning a race was at the beginning of the 2011 season (when they did not win at all).

With only seven races left, their window of opportunity is running out but, if Sunday's Dutch Grand Prix is anything to go by, they will at the very least be in the mix at the front for the rest of the year.

Mercedes initially gambled on a one stop strategy with both of their drivers, before a virtual safety car for the stricken Yuki Tsunoda forced them to abandon that plan and stop again for medium tyres. Nonetheless, their pace seemed competitive, and Lewis Hamilton in P2 was hunting down Max Verstappen when a full safety car was deployed due to Valtteri Bottas' Alfa Romeo being stopped on the pit straight.

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It was here that Mercedes seemingly made a major blunder. When Verstappen pitted from the lead for fresh tyres, Mercedes left both Hamilton and teammate George Russell out on track, leaving them first and second entering the final few laps.

Russell, however, suggested that he should also stop for fresh tyres, and Mercedes made a late call to pull him in on the next lap. That left Hamilton a sitting duck at the restart, and he would ultimately only finish P4 - behind Verstappen, Russell, and Charles Leclerc.

It was a tough pill to swallow for Hamilton, who was pretty aggressive in criticising his team's decision making over the team radio. It was a heat-of-the-moment reaction from Hamilton, and one which he apologised for in the direct aftermath of the race.

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Nonetheless, it was an insight into the sense of "missed opportunity" that surrounds Mercedes after the chaotic finish in the Netherlands.

The best shot they had at winning the race was likely by leaving both Hamilton and Russell out on track, or pitting both. Leaving Hamilton on old tyres to defend from Verstappen on fresh softs was never going to work, and it took Verstappen a matter of metres after the restart to retake the lead.

It was a major blunder, but an honest mistake from Mercedes. There is no guarantee that they would have won with the right strategy either - Verstappen has been so imperious in recent months that it is not out of the question he would simply have barrelled past both Mercedes cars anyway.

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But the signs of race pace are encouraging for Mercedes. Russell's P2 might feel hollow after a decent shot at a race win, but it is the third time in the last four races that Mercedes have finished second. That streak of races also includes two double podium finishes, and a pole position, and Russell continues to move closer to second place in the championship.

Hamilton was unlucky on Sunday - and was at fault on lap one in Belgium last week - but has been the faster Mercedes man since the start of July.

The British Grand Prix on the first weekend of July certainly felt like Hamilton and Mercedes' best shot at a race win at the time, but they have kicked on dramatically since then, and could have had two race wins on pace since then if things had gone their way.

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They will be concerned that Sunday's race was mainly lost on their strategic decision making - something that has caught Mercedes out on more than one occasion in the past - but with races like Austin and Sao Paulo coming up where Mercedes have flown in recent years, they will feel good about their chances of winning a race before 2022 is out.

If Lewis Hamilton can drive like he did on Sunday, and George Russell can continue with his uber consistency, there is every reason to believe that one of them can be there to pick up the pieces if the Red Bulls or Ferraris slip up ahead.

What would be even more satisfying for the team is if they didn't even need those slip ups in the first place.

Wrapping up from the Dutch Grand Prix

Position Driver Team Points Race wins
1st Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing-RBPT 310 10 (+2 sprint wins)
2nd Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 201 3
3rd Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing-RBPT 201 1
4th George Russell Mercedes AMG F1 188 0
5th Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Ferrari 175 1
  • Driver of the day: A tricky one on a curious day. Verstappen dealt well with everything thrown his way, and Hamilton didn't really put a foot wrong on a day he was unlucky not to be in the mix at the end. But Fernando Alonso's drive from P13 to P6 was a pretty spectacular one.
  • Day to forget: On a day where he did practically nothing wrong, Carlos Sainz had the worst luck of all in Zandvoort. Firstly, a slow pit stop, then an unfortunately timed overtake under yellow flags and, finally, an unsafe release which cost him five seconds and three positions. Rotten luck.
  • The big question ahead of round #16: Will normal service be resumed at Monza? The last three races at Monza brought somewhat surprising race winners - Daniel Ricciardo last year, Pierre Gasly in 2020, and Charles Leclerc's second race win in 2019. Will the race throw up more chaos this year, or will it be more of the same from Max Verstappen?

SEE ALSO: Oscar Piastri Opens Up On 'Bizarre' Feud With Alpine Over 2023 Seat


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