Toto Wolff makes worrying Lewis Hamilton title prediction amid early Mercedes struggles

Lewis Hamilton to change his name

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has conceded that Lewis Hamilton is unlikely to win a record-breaking eighth Drivers’ Championship title at the end of this year as a result of the German outfit’s distinct lack of pace in comparison to their rivals. The Silver Arrows were much slower than the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari at Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix but managed to sneak onto the podium after Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were both forced to retire their cars with only a few laps remaining.

Hamilton was more than 30 seconds adrift of race leader and eventual winner Charles Leclerc before he was gifted two places when the two Red Bull drivers were hit with mechanical problems after a late safety car period. The seven-time champion went on to sneak into third in the absences of Verstappen and Perez to secure an unexpectedly good start to the new campaign for Mercedes.

However, the Silver Arrows will have plenty of work to do behind closed doors in order to match the pace of Red Bull and Ferrari over the coming weeks. They were almost a second per lap slower than the quickest drivers and continued to suffer with the phenomenon known as ‘porpoising’, which has returned to F1 with the re-introduction of ground effect on the new 2022 cars after a 40-year absence.

The situation could leave Hamilton with a mountain to climb in order to become the most decorated driver in the history of the sport if Mercedes are unable to get on top of their problems in the near future. Wolff played down Hamilton’s title chances when quizzed on the topic in the aftermath of the Bahrain Grand Prix by insisting that he will struggle to wrestle the end-of-season honours back into his possession if the car is not quick enough over the course of the campaign.

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“If we look at the pecking order today, it seems it will be a very long shot to even think about being in contention for the Drivers’ or Constructors’ Championships,” said the Mercedes boss. “We probably scored the maximum points that we could have on Sunday, and we need to take it from here.

“Every weekend counts. But at the moment we have to be realistic and when you are third on the road you cannot think about winning it.”

Wolff’s comments were echoed by George Russell, who suggested that Mercedes may be forced to deal with the ‘porpoising’ issue for the rest of the season after failing to solve the problem in spite of their best efforts. “It is promising to see that other cars have had the same issue and they managed to solve it which means there is a solution there, but we are struggling to find it,” said the 24-year-old, who secured a career-best finish of fourth place in Bahrain.

“It would have been brilliant if we solved it in testing where we had so much running, but we truly just don’t know how long it will take, if it is next weekend or after the summer break. We hope it will be as soon as possible, but there is no reason why it may not continue the whole year.”

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