Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko is concerned Lewis Hamilton will be able to catch Max Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship if Mercedes solve their ‘porpoising’ problems. Toto Wolff’s team has faced significant adversity at the start of a new era in F1, whilst Ferrari and Red Bull battle at the front of the grid.
Mercedes are painfully off the pace of the leading duo in their new W13 challenger. Last time out, George Russell finished fifth, 32.732s behind Saudi Arabian Grand Prix winner Verstappen, whilst Hamilton placed 10th after suffering a shock Q1 elimination.
The primary culprit of their struggles in 2022 has been the aerodynamic issue of ‘porpoising’, which makes the car aggressively bounce whilst travelling at high speeds. However, Marko has warned Verstappen that Hamilton isn’t far behind in the Drivers’ Championship after two races and has backed Mercedes to reemerge as title contenders.
He told Formel1.de: “I’m completely convinced they will come back if they control the ‘porpoising’. And Lewis Hamilton is nine points behind Verstappen, so that’s nothing either. I don’t think it’s the end [of an era], but maybe we’ll have a battle on the same level.”
Marko was also asked about what he believed was the root of Mercedes’ struggles this season. The 78-year-old has suggested the increase in synthetic fuel could be the primary source of the Silver Arrows’ woes. “I don’t know exactly why Mercedes have been left behind,” Marko explained.
“Surely it must have something to do with the increase in synthetic fuel, which went from five to 10 per cent. Logic points to an explanation being related to fuel. And, of course, when you lose so many important people… first Andy Cowell is gone, then another 50 people or so, so the impact is logical.”
The 2022 F1 season returns to Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, and Hamilton will be confident after securing pole position at every time of asking during the hybrid era. However, he arrives at Albert Park in a different situation this time around and will just want to avoid another qualifying disaster.
Verstappen will be eyeing back-to-back race wins to strengthen his world title challenge, whilst Charles Leclerc will hope to better his long-standing rival after being pipped to the line in Jeddah.
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