F1 regulations will mean 'terribly painful year' for some cars, say Mercedes

By Sports Desk January 24, 2022

Mercedes hope they will be prepared for the 2022 Formula One season, in which technical director James Allison is forecasting "a terribly painful year" for teams who get their car "really badly wrong". 

F1 is belatedly introducing its game-changing new regulations in the coming year, shaking up the sport after an epic 2021 season. 

The 2022 car has been designed with the aim to end the dominance of any one team and ensure closer racing. 

Mercedes, whose Lewis Hamilton was agonisingly pipped to the title by Max Verstappen in the previous campaign, will expect to again be at the forefront of a title tussle, but Allison recognises some outfits will be caught unaware. 

The price for making mistakes this year is a significant one, he believes. 

"Everyone in our team, and everyone in every other team, will have done our level best to try to find a design and an approach that will be a happy match to this new regulation set," Allison said in a video posted by Mercedes. 

"And we'll all get to find out together at the start of this season, in the races that unfold from there, exactly how that shakes out. 

"I would imagine, given that the cars are so new and so different, that one or two cars on the grid will have got it really badly wrong. And they will have a terribly painful year. 

"I would imagine that all of us to some degree will have left things on the table that we just didn't anticipate. And we will look at other cars and think, 'Oh, why didn't we think of that?' 

"Then we'll be scrambling around to try to get that idea onto our car as fast as possible, so that we can claw our way, from whatever position we land in that first race, forwards. Or, if we're lucky enough to be in front, to keep the attacking wolves behind us. 

"It's going to be quite a rush and definitely something that's going to keep us all from having too much sleep for the whole of the season." 

George Russell is joining Hamilton at Mercedes this year, replacing Valtteri Bottas after impressing with Williams. 

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    Starting from P6, Hamilton suffered the puncture following contact from Haas driver Kevin Magnussen on the first lap in Barcelona and suggested to his Mercedes team he should retire from the race to preserve the car's engine after rejoining at the back of the field.

    But the seven-time champion produced an excellent drive after his enforced pit-stop and looked on course to finish fourth before a coolant leak allowed Ferrari's Carlos Sainz to edge him out late on.

    Speaking after the race, Hamilton considered the circumstances he was forced to overcome en route to a strong points finish.

    "To have that problem and come back, it felt like some of the older races I've done," Hamilton said. "It feels amazing.

    "I was thinking it was impossible to get back into points, but the team said 'no, you're on for eighth'. I thought they were being super-optimistic.

    "I'm glad we didn't [retire] and it just shows you never stop and never give up, and that's what I did.

    "A race like that is like a win, and it actually feels better than a win when you have come from so far back."

    Since losing out on a record eighth world title in the closing seconds of the final race of the 2021 campaign, when Max Verstappen clinched his first championship in controversial circumstances, Hamilton has endured a frustrating time.

    The 37-year-old, who has only secured one podium this campaign, has been critical of Mercedes' W13 car on numerous occasions this year, calling it "undriveable" after finishing 13th at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix last month. 

    But Hamilton believes the team's work on the car has improved it greatly, and he suggested he could have joined team-mate George Russell – in third – in challenging the two Red Bull drivers, who secured their second one-two in three races, if not for his early problems.

    "We have made a lot of improvements with the car and the race pace is much better, the car is much nicer in the race," he added. "We have some improvements to make in qualifying.

    "If I hadn't had that [issue], I would have been fighting with the Red Bulls."

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    The reigning world champion claimed his third consecutive Formula One victory in Barcelona on Sunday, profiting after title rival Charles Leclerc retired with a technical issue when seemingly on course to win.

    Verstappen now holds a six-point lead at the top of the standings, an outcome that did not look likely when the Dutchman dropped from second to fourth after spinning in the early stages, as Leclerc built a huge lead.

    The Dutchman also voiced his concerns on team radio as persistent issues with his DRS system hindered his attempts to pass Mercedes' George Russell during a thrilling tussle between the duo.

    Verstappen, though, kept his focus and, after some help from team orders, recorded his first win in Spain since 2016, when he took his first-ever F1 victory at the same circuit.

    Team-mate Sergio Perez was second in a great result for Red Bull, with Russell taking the final spot on the podium ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton.

    "Of course I went off - I suddenly had a lot of tailwind, so I just lost the rear and went off," Verstappen said about his ninth-lap error.

    "Then I was obviously in the train and trying to pass but my DRS was not always working. That made it very tough.

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    Verstappen insisted his anger on team radio related to his car issues, not at the way Russell was defending his position. 

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    Leclerc got a good start to retain his lead, but Hamilton's miserable start to the season was summed up when his he made contact with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen - who went into the gravel - at Turn 4 on the opening lap.

    Hamilton limped to the pits with a front-left puncture and was told to continue after suggesting over the team radio that he retires from the race, having returned to the track in 19th place.

    Sainz was back in 11th after spinning off at Turn 4 on lap seven and Verstappen was in the gravel at the same section of the circuit two laps later, dropping back from second to fourth.

    Russell pitted from second place and Verstappen was also called in on lap 14, with Leclerc leading by over nine seconds.

    Verstappen was furious as he was hampered by DRS issues attempting to pass Russell, who fended the Dutchman off to keep second place as they went wheel-to-wheel.

    It was all going so well for Leclerc until he lost power with a win there for the taking and Perez soon passed Russell on fresher tyres to take the lead after Verstappen pitted for a new set of softs.

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    Perez allowed Verstappen to pass him under team orders and there were no further twists in a pulsating race, with a surging Hamilton passing Sainz to finish fourth until a late technical issue caused him to concede the place back.

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