French GP 'best race of the year' for Mercedes, says Shovlin

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Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin declared the French Grand Prix as the team's "best race of the year" after a first double podium of 2022.

Lewis Hamilton immediately overtook Red Bull's Sergio Perez at the start of the race and rose to second following the retirement of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc – securing his fourth consecutive podium and marking his 300th career race in style.

Meanwhile, George Russell enjoyed a thrilling battle with Perez in the closing stages and leapt ahead after a late virtual safety car, though he felt he should have been handed the position earlier in the race after a collision with the Mexican.

Mercedes' performances on race day has consistently been better than free practice and qualifying, with Hamilton and Russell the only drivers on the grid to have improved on their start position in every race they have completed in 2022.

At the Circuit Paul Ricard, that trend continued as the team bounced back after a disappointing qualifying session where they were well off the pace of their rivals, but Shovlin believes the performance in Sunday's race was testament to how far they have come.

"That was our best race of the year and really pleasing to see both drivers racing at the front," he said.

"We know that we've got a long road ahead of us but compared to where we were a couple of months ago in Monaco and Baku, it's really satisfying to see the team and drivers having a bit of fun again.

"The weekend hasn't been easy, our qualifying positions weren't far off expectation, but the gaps to Charles and Max were eye-opening.

"We'd hoped that the car would be kind on the tyres today, the conditions were very tough given the circuit and the temperature but degradation was good and whilst we are lacking a bit of pace, we at least seemed a bit stronger towards the end of the stints."

The teams are straight back into it as the Hungarian Grand Prix takes place next week, with Shovlin suggesting Mercedes will push for further improvement ahead of the summer break.

"We've only got a couple of days to try and regroup and prepare for Budapest," he added. "Hard work has got us to a level where we can fight for a place on the podium but we want to be fighting for the top step.

"We've got one race to go before the summer break so we will be pushing hard to try and finish the first half of the season on a high note."

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