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Damon Hill: Don't discount Mercedes for 2022 Formula 1 season despite troubles in testing

Speaking to Sky Sports News, 1996 world champion Damon Hill cautioned against writing off Mercedes' hopes ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend despite their struggles in testing

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Damon Hill thinks Mercedes' troubles during testing mean they might have to come from behind after the first few races of the new season, but says no-one should discount them.

Damon Hill has warned not to write off Mercedes' hopes for the 2022 Formula 1 season despite the reigning Constructors Champions' struggles in testing last week.

The Silver Arrows showed reliability but were lacking in pace compared to rivals Red Bull and Ferrari, while drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell both played down expectations for the upcoming season.

But speaking to Sky Sports News ahead of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, which is exclusively live on Sky Sports this weekend, 1996 World Champion Hill cautioned against reading too much into those performances in those testing sessions at the Sakhir circuit.

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"In the past they have had trouble in testing and then gone on to win the first race," Hill said. "You should never discount them; they've won eight Constructors' titles on the trot, so they've got the capability.

"We've got 22 races, so the championship is a long old haul, they might be coming from behind the first couple of races, but I've learnt not to discount them - but they had a few hiccups, and it looks like they had some troubles in testing.

"They've got enormous resources, but they're limited on the resources they can employ because they bought in budget caps, so they can't spend more than a certain amount of money on their cars, employ more than a certain number of people, or do more than a certain amount of hours on the rig."

Pre-season testing in Bahrain saw Mercedes debut arguably the most eye-catching car design under Formula 1's new regulations as well, with the W13 most notably featuring minimalist sidepods and fins on the side.

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Ted, Brundle, and Crofty talk about Hamilton's struggle with porpoising during testing and if it could potentially hold Mercedes back going into the first race of the season. 

Ferrari and Red Bull's design teams have come up with their own imaginative interpretations of the rules too and Hill is excited to see the differing ideas being employed up and down the grid in 2022.

"It's fascinating to see what they've done," Hill said. "Ferrari have come up with a very different sidepod shape which is a very round-looking things, whereas the Red Bull has got scalloped shapes where the air goes underneath the air intakes for the radiators.

"Mercedes have gone completely differently - you can hardly see where the radiators are and they've got a car which almost looks like a triangle, the same as Williams do.

"There are lots of different interpretations of the car and they're all playing with the way the air flows through the car, over the car and to the back of the car to the wing to get more downforce, to make the air be more efficient over the body of the car.

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Formula 1 managing director Ross Brawn says he didn't anticipate Mercedes' interpretation of the new car design rules.

"There are lots of interpretations, new regulations which they've been working on, and they've come up with different ideas which is brilliant for us."

It was Red Bull and reigning Drivers' Champion Max Verstappen who set the pace in testing in Bahrain, with many observers expecting them to be leading the charge come the first Grand Prix of the year this weekend.

But, as with cautioning against dismissing Mercedes' hopes, Hill warned against reading too much into those times and believes Ferrari, with the exciting driver pairing of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr, could be well-placed to challenge in 2022 as well.

"They look very comfortable, they looked happy in the garage, and they had reliability and speed, but you must never go on testing," Hill said. "You got some clue, but it can be very misleading.

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Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari and Red Bull are favourites to win the Bahrain Grand Prix next week as Max Verstappen clocks the fastest time in final day of testing.

"We've seen in the past Ferrari have gone well in testing and they look very good, but what will happen when we get to qualifying? That's really going to be the test...when we'll see the true pace of these cars.

"But that doesn't answer the question either because you've got to factor in how these cars look after their tyres during a race. They can be quick in qualifying sometimes and not quick in the race. It's going to be tight at the front, at least we can say that."

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