Lewis Hamilton and George Russell have "a huge problem" they need their Mercedes team to fix quickly if they are to challenge for the title this season, according to a Formula 1 legend.
Mercedes started their season in a surprisingly positive manner, taking advantage of Red Bull 's mechanical issues to finish third and fourth at the Bahrain Grand Prix. But Hamilton failed to make it out of Q1 in Saudi Arabia and limped to 10th in the race, while Russell did a bit better and managed a second top-five finish.
Their struggle for pace continues at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, with the two Silver Arrows looking a long way off the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari. Both cars did manage to get into Q3 in Melbourne, which is more than they had managed at the previous race weekend, but could still only manage fifth (Hamilton) and sixth (Russell).
Two-time F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi has summed up the problems Mercedes are facing in their quest to compete at the front, as they have done for so many years. "Mercedes engines are down. They suffered a lot of performance in the first two Grands Prix. We know all the Mercedes teams are having a difficult time," he told VegasInsider.
"Hamilton had a great race in Bahrain where he got the podium. With that car, Lewis should not be on the podium. They are struggling. The speed on the stretch is much lower. When you have less power from the engine, you sacrifice the aerodynamics. And then it’s a compromise of handling, as well.
"Then you go into a vicious circle. You don’t have enough speed on the stretch, you take off some downforce, and then you lose on the corners and then it’s always a difficult compromise. And the one who has a lot of power can put more downforce and then you are still strong on the stretch and much stronger in braking, cornering, saving the tires.
"[Mercedes] have a huge problem, in my opinion, to solve. The track in Melbourne, Australia is more smooth [than Jeddah]. The cars are very sensitive to bumps now and it’s very difficult to get the suspension working over the bumps and not to lose the mechanical grip."
Meanwhile, though Hamilton's six-race streak of pole positions at Albert Park came to an end, Martin Brundle has refused to rule out his chances of challenging for the title later in the year. "It's been a slow start so far for Hamilton this season, but don’t write him off yet as he still looks to win a record-breaking eight world-title," the Sky Sports pundit said.
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