British racing driver Billy Monger believes the sprint weekend format only serves to highlight Mercedes’ weaknesses.
The W14, while an improvement on its predecessor, has proven to be difficult for the Mercedes team to manage, in particular in finding the right setup for a weekend.
That issue was highlighted in the Sao Paulo sprint with just the one practice session resulting in a car that was not balanced correctly and a poor race result.
Lewis Hamilton labels W14 a ‘peaky’ car
Lewis Hamilton would finish the race eighth while team-mate George Russell DNFed and during the sprint race, both were complaining that the car was not set up properly.
Monger, appearing on Channel 4’s coverage of the race, believes the shortened format has highlighted that inability of Mercedes to get the car right with minimal practice.
“Mercedes just looked so far away from where we’re used to seeing them this week and they didn’t really understand their car,” he said. “The degradation from this weekend was a huge factory that was clear to see.
“I think this sprint race weekend format doesn’t help them. Remember a lot of times this season, you get to the end of Friday and you hear Lewis and George complaining that the cars are completely out of the window.
“The window for that car is smaller than most others it seems so and this weekend, they just didn’t get it where it needed to be early enough in the weekend and it just got worse and worse as they went through the whole weekend. So a real tough test for them all over.”
Asked earlier in the season about their swings in performance, Hamilton put it down to their “peaky car.”:
“That’s because we have a very peaky car,” he said.
“When we talk about knife-edges, this is that car. It’s like, impossible.
“It’s like trying to balance a knife on its tip. It’s never perfectly balanced, it’s one way or the other, you’re either oversteer or massive understeer.
“You can never get it in the middle. You try and get it as close as you can, but it’s very hard to do each weekend.
“Once I do get it into a decent place, this is where I qualify.”