Following what appeared to be steady improvements made by the Mercedes Formula 1 team in recent races, the Silver Arrows proved to be disappointing in their initial outings at the French Grand Prix weekend. Despite arriving with a lot of hype surrounding their new updates, Mercedes ended the practice sessions at Paul Ricard seven-tenths off the pace of the leaders.

The Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc led the pack once more, followed by Red Bull's Max Verstappen. The upgraded floor and updated nose cone design on the Mercedes cars saw them trailing the leaders as "the best of the rest" once more, with Russell securing P4 in both practice sessions on Friday.

Hamilton skipped the first session to let developmental driver Nyck de Vries a chance to test the Mercedes car, but Hamilton returned for FP2 only to end up in P5. The team had already proven that they can establish a firm grip on third place in the Constructors' Championship, but their best car being 0.764s behind the leading Ferrari meant that they did not make any inroads into their goal of catching the leading teams.

Russell explained to that even though they brought upgrades which may have helped their pace, the other cars on the grid are also constantly improving. "The whole grid just moves forward, so even though we are finding time, our rivals are also finding time, so it's sometimes not quite so simple to see it on the lap chart."

He admitted that overall, they did not see the results that they wanted from the upgrades that they brought. However, anything can still happen on Sunday, and he remains optimistic about their chances. "We are probably a little bit further off the pace today than we would have hoped. Work to do tonight back at the factories, but never say never."

Meanwhile, Hamilton said that missing the first practice session held him back a bit, and the heat in France is also affecting tyre performance. "I tried to get back up to speed as quick as possible; it's very hot so there is a lot of slow laps to try and get the temperatures down on the tyres, but I think I got through… I think I did alright – it was average I would say."

Mercedes are still chasing their first race win of the 2022 season, with Red Bull and Ferrari the clear championship rivals this year.

George Russell
Mercedes's George Russell POOL via AFP / CHRISTIAN BRUNA