RACE DEBRIEF

    The 2022 Formula 1 season is just around the corner, so, for each team on the grid we have two key questions ahead of the 23-race campaign that sees a new era of cars hit the track. Last but not least, it’s the turn of Mercedes.

    Will harmony reign at Mercedes as Russell steps up to full-time drive?

    Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton’s partnership with newcomer George Russell at Mercedes has the potential to become one of the most intriguing storylines of 2022.

    Hamilton may have lost his World Championship crown on the last lap in Abu Dhabi, but he remains one of the most formidable drivers on the grid and will once again be expected to spearhead Mercedes’ championship challenge.

    READ MORE: 7 key rule changes for the 2022 season

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    Lewis Hamilton is set to return for a 10th season with the Silver Arrows

    However, Russell is heralded by the Silver Arrows as their future. The former Mercedes junior has progressed to the works team after a few stellar seasons with Williams, and after his astonishing stand-in performance for Hamilton in Bahrain in 2020, it is anticipated he’ll be on the pace straight away.

    This could mean some tension between the two, who are at very different stages of their career. Russell won’t do anything to jeopardise his position as a long-term asset for Mercedes – but he will want to prove he has what it takes to deliver at the very highest level.

    READ MORE: New Mercedes racer Russell believes 5 teams could fight for title in 2022

    Hamilton will want to show he is still the best in F1 – and has the advantage of having been with the team since 2013. He’s essentially become part of the furniture. He’s dealt with a variety of team mates, who have had differing personalities and levels of speed, and has 15 years of experience.

    He’ll play the long game, which has served him well in the past, but don’t for a minute think Hamilton will give an extra millimetre to his team mate. The 37-year-old will want to keep winning until he’s hung up his boots.

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    George Russell dons a new hat this year as he makes his full-season debut for Mercedes

    Can Mercedes maintain their superiority despite massive regulation overhaul?

    Every time the regulations have changed since 2014, Mercedes have responded and retained their near-iron-grip on the sport so there’s no reason to think they won’t do so again.

    They turned their attention to 2022 very early, their final big upgrade package of the year coming out of production and onto the car for last July's British Grand Prix.

    Suffering defeat on the last lap in Abu Dhabi and yielding the drivers’ championship will only serve as further motivation – not that any was needed – for Mercedes to come back this season all guns blazing to reclaim their spot as champions in both standings.

    READ MORE: Mercedes tech chief Allison says 2022 rules 'an opportunity to show we haven't just been lucky'

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    Mercedes earned a record eighth consecutive constructors' championship in 2021 – but will be on a warpath to take the 2022 drivers' title too

    Their technical team will have had some time to bed in, following a tweak that saw long-time Technical Director James Allison step up to take on a more strategic role, which bodes well, while their facilities – both at Brackley and Brixworth (the latter of which has churned out the class-leading engine year in, year out in the turbo-hybrid era) – are well-oiled machines.

    Of course, with a blank sheet of paper, there is always the risk that they – like their nine rivals – could take the wrong direction and be forced to backtrack. But Mercedes have history in getting these changes right – and they have form of putting wrongs right quickly, too.

    It’s difficult to see Mercedes doing anything other than fighting for wins every weekend.