Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes “desperately need” upgrades after another “kick in the gut” in Friday practice for the Miami Grand Prix.
After an encouraging performance in the opening session in Florida, in which Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were classified second and first respectively, Mercedes struggled throughout FP2 in Miami.
Visibly struggling with the handling of the W14 car at times, Hamilton was a distant P7 – almost a second off the pace of Max Verstappen’s table-topping Red Bull – with Russell 15th.
Mercedes’ latest difficult day comes after the team had hoped to have turned a corner at last month’s Australian GP, where Russell started from the front row and both drivers led briefly with Hamilton eventually taking the team’s first podium finish of 2023.
The eight-time Constructors’ Champions have already committed to a revised car concept following a bruising season opener in Bahrain, with a major update set to be introduced at the next round at Imola.
A downbeat Hamilton has said in Miami that those revisions to the car cannot come quickly enough.
Asked what he had learned on Friday in Miami, Hamilton told Sky Sports: “The same as every weekend, that we’re a second down.
“It’s a great weekend, it’s a great place to be, there’s lots of positives.
“It’s just [that] we’re not particularly quick and it’s a struggle out there.
“We’re just trying lots of different things.
“P1 looked quite good and then to come into P2 and [see] the true pace come out is just a kick in the gut. It’s a little bit difficult to take sometimes, but it’s okay.
“We’ll just keep on working on it and we’ll regroup tonight and try and see if we can make some setup changes and get the car in a sweet spot.”
Discussing how the performance of the W14 had evolved over recent weeks, Hamilton insisted he was happy with the behaviour of the car in Australia and Azerbaijan and suggested the hot conditions in Miami may have affected the car’s performance on Friday.
“Melbourne, obviously, was a night-and-day difference – much, much nicer to drive there,” he said.
“Baku felt better than here also.
“I think maybe the heat or maybe it’s just the balance we have at the moment [causing Miami struggles].
“So I’m going to stay optimistic. I’m going to stay hopeful that we can get the car in a better place tomorrow and maybe be a couple of steps up.
“Last year we had hardcore bouncing. It generally feels like we’re racing pretty much the same car, so that’s the difficult thing.”
Asked to pinpoint one specific area where the car is struggling, he responded: “There isn’t just one thing.”
The Miami track has been resurfaced for this year following complaints from drivers in the inaugural event in 2022, with many cars struggling for grip throughout the Friday sessions.
With Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashing out in FP1 and FP2 respectively, Hamilton says the track conditions present an extra challenge.
“The grip is really quite low on this new circuit,” he explained. “It’s interesting to see some of the offs.
“It is slippery, particularly for the rear end. It’s very high track [temperatures] today so there’s a lot of sliding for a lot of people, including me, and so lots of overheating of the tyres.
“So we’re just trying to find that balance that keeps the tyres somehow in the right spot, but they’re generally always over the peak of the temps.
“As I said, I’m trying to stay positive with it. We’re working as hard as we can, we’re dying [for], desperately need those upgrades, that’s for sure.
“Just got to keep our head down for one more race and hopefully we’ll start a new path [at the] next race.”
Questioned about his expectations for Saturday’s qualifying session, Hamilton confessed he would settle for a place in the top-10 Q3 shootout.
“Well, I don’t have [an] expectation,” he said.
“I just hope that I can get it into a better place tomorrow, as I said, so hope that we can be in Q3 and I hope that we can be mid-bunch in that top 10, that’d be great.”
Hamilton and Mercedes will have one final hour of practice to discover some much-needed extra pace in that W14 before qualifying commences.