Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff does not believe that Sir Lewis Hamilton has lost any of his pace since the end of the 2021 season.
Hamilton was cruelly denied an eighth world title last year on the final lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix following a controversial Safety Car restart by now former race director Michael Masi.
He was welcomed upon his return this year by an erratic Mercedes that has been suffering with turbulence due to the new technical regulations, and this caused a lot of bouncing on the track surface in a phenomenon known as “porpoising.”
The Silver Arrows seemed to have sorted it in Spain, but the lower ride height they put on the cars as a result has now meant that the floor of the car is hitting the track surface even harder, affecting performance and comfort.
The result of the loss of performance is that Hamilton has not been on the podium since the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, and he has been out-performed in all of the last seven races by team-mate George Russell.
It was therefore put to Wolff that Hamilton has perhaps lost his mojo since Abu Dhabi last year, but he refuted this.
“No, I don’t think it’s like that, he is the best that has ever been,” he told Channel 4.
“Between Abu Dhabi in 2021, dominating the last third of the season, to four months later, you are not losing your ability.”
The Austrian revealed that Mercedes have been trying out various different things on the car in an attempt to better understand what is going wrong, and both drivers have been extremely cooperative and helpful in their feedback of the experiments.
“How they appear to me, both of them, it’s very professional,” explained Wolff.
“They have been given a car that is a bit sub-par, each of them tries to develop the car further, they have both gone [in] a different set-up direction, Lewis [in Baku] again very experimental, but can be available in the long term.
“I think as long as the car is not good enough to really be racing at the front, the differences are small and I don’t think you can have a pattern saying ‘George is continuously outperforming Lewis’ or the other way around.
“We have seen Lewis in Barcelona, he was the genius that we know, so I think what I enjoy is them working together and trying to bring the car back to the front.”
Russell got his third podium of the year last weekend in Azerbaijan, with Hamilton ending the race fourth after suffering from intense back pain for most of the afternoon.