Mercedes’ head of race strategy Rosie Wait confirmed that a brake issue almost forced Lewis Hamilton to retire from the Abu Dhabi GP as they search for an F1 2024 fix.
Hamilton cut a rather downbeat figure in the paddock at the F1 2023 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the seven-time World Champion clearly ready to put an end to another disappointing campaign for Mercedes.
After suffering back-to-back Q2 exits, Hamilton went into race day at Yas Marina Circuit very unlikely to avoid consecutive winless seasons, a scenario which came to pass as he crossed the line P9.
Lewis Hamilton nursing borderline-DNF brake issue
While Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell ended the season with a podium finish, Wait provided information on a reliability concern on Hamilton’s car, meaning for that side of the garage, the “number one priority” was simply making the chequered flag.
Mercedes now has the off-season to investigate to ensure there is no F1 2024 repeat.
Asked as part of Mercedes’ Abu Dhabi GP debrief why Hamilton was not as strong in his third and final stint, Wait replied: “If you picked through the data, and correct for things like the age of tyres, the track condition, Lewis’ performance was actually pretty similar through stint two and stint three but the race situation made it look quite different.
“In stint two, Lewis was on fresh tyres chasing down Fernando [Alonso], whereas Fernando was on older tyres and spent most of that stint in the dirty air of [Oscar] Piastri. That makes Fernando’s performance look worse than it was in reality and Lewis therefore look stronger.
“Take stint three and the positions were reversed. Fernando had slightly newer tyres than Lewis and fresh air, and Lewis was in the dirty air of Fernando with the older tyres, and so that’s why his performance doesn’t look as impressive despite the lap times being quite similar.
“The other thing to be aware of is that Lewis was managing brake issues throughout the race, which was a real reliability concern.
“So, our number one priority was making sure that we got that car to the finish and didn’t have to retire it.
“That will have affected his performance to varying degrees throughout the race and is something that we are certainly working on to improve for next year’s car.”
Hamilton had also sustained front wing damage earlier in the race when he was caught out by Pierre Gasly’s lock-up, tagging the rear of the Alpine.
Mercedes chose not to replace the front wing, Wait saying it was determined that the performance lost did not warrant taking the time hit of a front wing change.
“These things often look worse on television than they are in reality and in the data,” said Wait.
“Undoubtedly, it will have affected the balance and the performance of Lewis’ car slightly, but it was never a consideration for us to pay the cost of a pit stop of fitting a new front wing, versus just continuing with it.”
Mercedes were able to end F1 2023 on something of a high as they beat Ferrari to P2 in the Constructors’ Championship.