Lewis Hamilton urges Mercedes to fix ‘100% concept’ issue after Japan qualy struggles

Jamie Woodhouse
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton complained of a lack of load at the rear of the Mercedes W14, a feature which he says must be changed, pointing to McLaren as proof of what following the Red Bull route can do.

While Max Verstappen returned to being in a class of his own at the wheel of the Red Bull RB19 in Japanese Grand Prix qualifying, it was the McLaren MCL60 which established superiority in the ‘best of the rest’ battle over one lap.

Oscar Piastri will start P2 and Lando Norris P3, ahead of the Ferraris and Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate Perez, with Hamilton forced to settle for P7 on the grid alongside Mercedes team-mate George Russell.

Lewis Hamilton calls on Mercedes for concept fix

Hamilton ended Q3 a second off Verstappen’s pace at Suzuka and half a second down on Piastri as he shed light on where he feels Mercedes are going wrong, something which he says the team must fix if they want to progress back towards the title scene in 2024.

“Yesterday was a bad day,” Hamilton told Sky F1 post-qualifying. “Each weekend out of the three days there is at least one bad day.

“The balance didn’t feel great yesterday, we made some great changes, good work overnight and the car has felt generally really nice today. It’s been nice to drive through FP3. So I feel much more confident.

“And then qualifying I was giving everything, but that seven-tenths deficit that we have in Sector 1, it’s just all rear end. Our car has loads of load on the front and not as much as we need on the rear.

“And so we’re really a long way down on that and for me, that’s clearly concept. It’s 100% clear that’s concept and we’ve got to make sure we change that for next year, which hopefully we will.

“It’s a steep gap that we have to close next year, but you’ve seen what Aston [Martin] did coming into this year. So we can make big steps.

“Seeing what the McLarens have done this year. By going down the Red Bull route, they’re now ahead of us here on a track like this.

“I just gave it everything I could, I’m happy with my lap, it just wasn’t that quick compared to others.

“I was really happy with qualifying, every lap was really strong, even the used-tyre laps were strong.”

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Hamilton nonetheless did still enjoy the thrill of going on maximum attack around the iconic Suzuka circuit, a venue where he has claimed victory four times before in his Formula 1 career.

“It’s one of the hardest tracks in the world and it’s amazing,” he said.

“And even though the car was a little bit difficult to drive with the lack of rear end, it’s still an enjoyable lap.

“And I think I was three-and-a-half-tenths up on George. So for a track like this, that’s pretty decent. So yeah, I just hope for a better race tomorrow.”

Hamilton, who has not tasted Formula 1 victory since Saudi Arabia 2021, last won the Japanese GP in 2018, the season when he claimed his fifth World Championship.

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