In a bid to find answers and unlock more performance from their troubled W13, which was initially plagued by porpoising and bouncing following an overhaul to F1’s technical rules, Mercedes conducted several set-up experiments during the opening races of the season.
At the time it was explained that Hamilton had taken lead responsibility of being the team’s ‘guinea pig’ due to his greater experience compared to new teammate Russell, who was embarking on his debut campaign with Mercedes and just his fourth full F1 season.
Hamilton suffered a run of consecutive defeats to Russell between the season-opening race in Bahrain and the ninth round in Canada, which Mercedes boss Toto Wolff attributed to “experiments going wrong” on Hamilton’s side of the garage.
Speaking to select media including Crash.net ahead of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Russell acknowledged that Hamilton made “more drastic” set-up changes early in the season, but said this was mainly because he was in “a happier place” with the car than the seven-time world champion.
“I feel that the biggest thing to take away from this is I was in a happier place with the car from the beginning,” Russell explained.
“The big set-up changes were more to try and make the car go faster. We bought a number of test items to every single track, they were the main development parts, and they would always be alternated.
“One week was Lewis and one week was me – they would always alternate, week-in, week-out.
“For sure, at the start of the year, Lewis made more drastic set-up changes within the confines of the car, but that was purely because I was in a happier place and he was still trying to find the set-up that suited him.
“But when it came to development, it would always get alternated from one week to the next. And that’s how it always is, we are on equal terms here.
“Whenever there was a development item, it does disrupt your race weekend. That’s why it’s always fair – that’s why the team always do it one week with Lewis, one week with me. And we’re still doing that now, for what it’s worth.”
Russell enjoyed an impressive first season with Mercedes in which he claimed his maiden grand prix win – and the team’s only victory of 2022 – on his way to finishing fourth in the championship standings, two places and 35 points ahead of Hamilton.
The 24-year-old Briton admitted that getting to grips with F1’s new generation of car was extremely challenging, especially while simultaneously trying to get to the bottom of Mercedes’ struggles.
“I think the reasons for those inconsistencies are because of the number of limitations we’ve had – one within our team, but [also] globally with these regulations,” he said.
“So, the porpoising, that was one big inconsistency at the start of the year – sometimes it was porpoising, sometimes not, only in some corners, not in other corners.
“Then, we learned the stiffness of the car was extraordinary and [we were] not able to take kerbs, learning that kerbs that you could take in previous years you can no longer take.
“And then learning the balance characteristics of our car was not right and needed adjusting.”