Jenson Button says he is “massively surprised” at how Mercedes’ 2022 season is turning out – and predicted it would be “tricky” for them to come back.
Just four races into the 2022 campaign it is already looking like Mercedes’ championship hopes are beyond saving.
They are third in the Constructors’ Championship but the 36-point gap between themselves and second-placed Red Bull looks only likely to increase as the season goes on.
It has also been one of the worst starts to a season for Lewis Hamilton, who finds himself seventh in the standings, just four points ahead of his former team-mate Valtteri Bottas having crossed the line in 13th position last weekend.
The team continue to search for an upgrade that may pull them back into title contention once more, but 2009 World Champion Button said it will be “tricky” for Mercedes to come back.
“I’m massively surprised,” Button told the Gentleman’s Journal.
“Ferrari have nothing to lose, they put everything into 2022. And when you watch the car on the straights it looks horrific because of the ‘porpoising’, but actually through the corner it looks beautiful to drive. Ferrari has just been plain sailing – good on them, they have done a great job.
“And I don’t think I see it changing any time soon. Ferrari still have more time in the wind tunnel than Mercedes, as do Red Bull. So it will be tricky for Mercedes to come back.”
Despite their poor start to the season, Button suggested it may have helped George Russell to settle into the team quicker as it did not create an instant rivalry between himself and Hamilton.
“George has come across as a very big team player, which is great,” Button said.
“Two great drivers are better than one in terms of setting up a car and also the feedback the team need to improve the car. So everything’s good at the moment.
“Atmosphere always changes when you are fighting for wins. That’s normally when you go from being best buddies to fierce competitors.”
Russell has come in for praise from another former World Champion in the form of Nico Rosberg. The 2016 champion said Mercedes had made a “brilliant choice” in picking Russell over Bottas and that he had produced a “potential World Championship level of driving” at Imola.
“It was very risky to take George and replace Bottas with him because George is such an unknown, but we can say now already it was a brilliant choice,” Rosberg told Sky F1.
“George has been so mature and delivered the maximum points possible with this car.
“We have to say he did so brilliantly throughout the weekend at Imola, which was the first time this year he really dominated Lewis and we are really overlooking that because of where they were.
“But we need to see he was like four tenths quicker than Lewis all weekend and ahead of him all weekend, which was really an awesome job by George and the first time we really saw this potential World Championship level of driving from him.”