Mercedes boss Toto Wolff thinks that Max Verstappen is "finding everything easier" this year with the Dutchman's Red Bull team being one of the quickest on the grid.
Last year Wolff saw Verstappen - with a less competitive car - famously snatch the title from Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi, following a huge controversy over safety car rules.
In 2022 it's a different story with Verstappen and his team setting the pace at most races, even if that hasn't always translated into points due to reliability issues.
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At Mercedes however - after such a long period of domination in the sport - things are altogether less rosy, with Wolff and his drivers - Hamilton and George Russell - struggling to get to grips with their car.
That said, their supremo is not willing to concede the title yet.
Wolff, talking to Austrian outlet oe24, said: "Last year Max drove a worse car to the maximum and won the title. Now he has the fastest car, everything is easier for him, the pendulum is swinging in his favour.
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"[Things at Mercedes are] mixed. We still don't understand our car. We had a really good day at Friday practice in Miami [at the last GP between 6-8 May] and were among the fastest.
"On Saturday everything was suddenly different again. Minimal changes in the setup have a big impact.
"We're hoping that things might go in the other direction: from a mediocre Friday to the very front. We are good at learning.
"Barcelona [where this weekend's Spanish GP is held] will be interesting for us because we tested there with a fast car in February. We want to continue there now. That could be a mini-milestone in the right direction.
"But we have to be realistic: we're still only third behind Red Bull and Ferrari.
"We've not written off the title, not at all. We're only in the fifth race, you can't write anything off yet, it can swing in our direction again.
"And in terms of points, we're not far behind."
Wolff has seen Mercedes new boy Russell perform strongly this term, and he currently sits a surprising 23 points above seven-time world champion Hamilton in the standings.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton
Image credit: Getty Images
That has given rise to some commentators speculating on problems between the two drivers, but Russell scotched those rumours.
He said: "I barely follow it [what is said about the pair]. And if I overhear one or other comments, I can only smile about them. George is doing a good job, but that's exactly what we expected from him, that's why he's at Mercedes.
"In the team I don't notice anything at all. These are background noises that are played over the press. Lewis and George push each other."
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