Hope is returning at Mercedes. After a difficult start to the Formula 1 year, the Silver Arrows long to return to the top. Red Bull and Ferrari still have an advantage. And the next race in particular is worrying.
After his furious drive from last place to almost the podium, Lewis Hamilton had no more doubts. "It's a great sign that we're moving in the right direction," said the seven-time Formula 1 world champion after fifth place in Barcelona. Although the Briton with Mercedes is still waiting for his first triumph after six races in 2022, the Silver Arrows are getting closer to the top and should soon actively intervene in the Formula 1 decision: “A race like this, in which you are so far behind Coming is like a win. We've improved the car a lot."
So far, defending champion Max Verstappen in the Red Bull and challenger Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari have been fighting almost alone for the world championship. With the technically greatly improved car, Mercedes is well on the way to turning it into a three-way battle. "There's no reason why we couldn't turn it around even though six races are over," said Hamilton's teammate George Russell, who finished third in Spain. Fourth overall, the 24-year-old is ahead of sixth-placed Hamilton.
The doyen had to "be dragged back from the brink of despair, but now believes he can conquer the world again," wrote the English newspaper "Daily Mail" on Monday. While Hamilton climbed from "the edge of hell to fifth place" in the "Sun", the "Guardian" saw "proof that the car is on the right track to be back at the top".
But it is also true that victory in the sweltering heat of Catalonia would normally have gone clearly to Leclerc. Problems with the engine meant that the Monegasque had to park his car while in the lead with a large lead. This was the only way Max Verstappen could win ahead of teammate Sergio Perez and take the lead in the world championship for the first time this year with six points ahead of Leclerc.
"It's good to look at the positive in such situations, and there's a lot of that," said Leclerc. The Scuderia also came with a souped-up car that dominated to the point of retirement. "They had a very strong weekend and we definitely have to improve," Verstappen also had to acknowledge: "You've taken a step forward. Now it's up to us to catch up."
Already next Sunday there will be driving in Monaco, the home of the 24-year-old Leclerc. Quite different qualities are required on the tight street circuit in the Principality than in Spain. "Expectations are lower than on all other courses," said Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff openly: "Monaco was not a good place for us in the past." The slow corners are the area where the Silver Arrows still struggle. Due to fewer opportunities to overtake, it will depend on a good qualification and a front grid position in the adopted home of Hamilton and Verstappen.
After an early accident with Haas driver Kevin Magnussen, Hamilton was passed to the end of the field in Barcelona on the first lap and actually wanted to give up. After the team persuaded him to continue, the one-time dominator rewarded himself. "It felt like before, that was really good," said the 37-year-old.
Mercedes had recently won the Constructors' Championship eight times, Hamilton broke record after record and humiliated the competition for years. However, the factory team had to give up its place at the top at the beginning of the year after the opponents implemented the new regulations better and left the German car manufacturer behind.
"We were able to turn the tide," said Russell, who spoke of "a season of problem solving". Team boss Wolff, on the other hand, didn't want to make it clear that his two drivers can now always fight for victories. "It's against us at the moment. But we're putting pressure on to get back into the game," said the Austrian.