Lewis Hamilton: Current W14 concept leaves Mercedes with uphill struggle

Thomas Maher
Mercedes' lewis Hamilton on track at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir, February 2023.

Mercedes' lewis Hamilton on track at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sakhir, February 2023.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has admitted the team face a huge challenge to climb back to the level of Red Bull, as the W14 is struggling to keep up.

Hamilton finished Friday’s practice time down in eighth place, winding up six-tenths down on the pace set by Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso and half a second behind the Red Bulls.

With Mercedes having said they were satisfied to have addressed many of the uncomfortable shortcomings of last year’s W13, the W14 may be a better car to drive – but Hamilton admitted the performance isn’t quite on the level he’d hoped.

“We found out we’re a long way off,” he told media at the conclusion of Friday’s action, when asked about where he feels Mercedes are in the pecking order.

“So we kind of knew that a little bit at the test. But it’s a big gap. I’m trying everything I can out there but it is what it is.”

As for whether the shortcomings stem from low-speed or high-speed deficiencies, the seven-time World Champion said it’s consistent across the range.

“I think they’re very, very similar,” he said.

“We’re offset in low and high. So, comparing to Red Bull and at the long runs, they were a second lap faster. We’ve got a lot to work on.”

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Setup changes also aren’t likely to make much of a difference to the overall pace of the W14, according to Hamilton, as he said he felt the car was already in a good performance window.

“I think I’ve got the car to the best place I can get it, setup-wise,” he said.

“So we’ll continue to tweak little bits here and there but it’s going to be small bits here and there, which is milliseconds, it’s not going to be the closing of a gap of a second. Nonetheless, we’ll just keep our head down tonight, we’ll go through the data, and will continue to work and try to progress tomorrow. We’ve got to try and find out if there’s any way we can add performance overnight.

“On the long run, we’re quite close to Ferrari, it looks like Aston was second. And we’re kind of between third and fourth. So we’re kind of where we were last year, if not a little bit further behind.”

As for whether there’s any hope of a competitive season as Mercedes aim to add upgrades to the car to address their deficit, Hamilton said it could be difficult given the philosophy Mercedes have chosen.

“I have to be hopeful. There was good progress through last year, but the gap wasn’t as big as it is now,” he said.

“Do I believe we can close the gap at some stage? Yes, but I think it’s quite hard with the concept we have.”