Lewis Hamilton not ‘holding breath’ after shock ‘no one knew’ frustration

Michelle Foster
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton with his head down.

Lewis Hamilton looking down in his Mercedes gear.

Having voiced his discontent after the season-opening race in Bahrain, Lewis Hamilton admits there were “frustrations” as “no one” at Mercedes knew how to fix the W14.

After a wretched 2022 yielded Hamilton’s first season in Formula 1 without a single Grand Prix victory, the Briton had hoped Mercedes’ late-season gains pointed toward a brighter future.

But it was not to be as continuing with the zero-pod design they were trounced by Red Bull at the opening Grand Prix in Bahrain where Hamilton was 50s off the pace.

‘I had asked for certain changes, and they weren’t done’

The seven-time World Champion accused Mercedes of not listening to him, telling the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast: “Last year, I told them the issues that are with the car…

“And I think it’s really about accountability, it’s about owning up and saying ‘yeah, you know what, we didn’t listen to you, it’s not where it needs to be and we’ve got to work’.”

Work on it is exactly what Mercedes did with the team putting a B-spec car on the grid in Monaco having changed the front suspension and scrapped the zero-pods in favour of a bulkier design.

That seemed to yield some gains, but it wasn’t enough to challenge Red Bull at the front of the field, with the team then seemingly taking a step backward as others, especially McLaren, came to the fore.

Hamilton, who said he had “high hopes” for a better 2023 season, admits it has been more a season of “frustrations” as he realised that the things he’d asked for had not been delivered.

“I remember it feeling exactly the same,” he told the BBC as he compared 2022 to this season. “And that definitely was not a great feeling. I really had high hopes.

“In February, when we do a download of where the car is going, I was a little more apprehensive, because the previous year it was like: ‘The car is amazing, it’s unique, no one’s going to have anything like it.’

“So, I was a little bit more cautious when I was listening, and I was like: ‘We will see.’ And then the car had all these problems. I just knew it was going to be a long year.

“I’m sure there were frustrations, because I had asked for certain changes, and they weren’t done.

“No one knew exactly what the problem was. No one knew how to fix it.

“Having the experience of the previous year, I just applied myself, in terms of digging down, sitting with the guys. We were having much better meetings.

“I was able to stay a lot more positive during the year and be like: ‘It’s going to be a long season, but let’s not give up. Let’s keep pushing towards getting the maximum out of the car, whatever that may be.’

“I think for this year they thought: ‘The fundamentals are good and we just have to go here.’ And it was not the case. That’s why I was frustrated in February because they hadn’t made the changes I’d asked for.

“But we didn’t have a North Star necessarily at the beginning of the year, knowing exactly where we need to work towards. It’s been kind of a zig-zag line trying to frickin’ get to where we need to be.

“Every now and again, something positive happens. You’re like: ‘OK, that’s it.’ And then it shifts, so the goalpost is always moving, which is typical.”

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Hamilton not ‘holding his breath’ as he reveals Mercedes concern

Next season Mercedes will have an all-new car on the grid with Toto Wolff revealing they are changing every single component of the car.

That, though, comes with risks of its own.

“You can imagine they are also nervous of making too big a change and it being the wrong one,” Hamilton said. “And we have higher targets than ever before because we’ve got a massive gap to close. That makes it really tricky.”

But there is a silver lining as the 38-year-old believes Mercedes do now understand where they need to go with the W15.

“I do believe we have a North Star now,” he added. “Which I don’t think we’ve had for two years. But still getting there is not a straight line.

“And there were just certain things, decisions that have been made, that just left you blocked at the end of a road, and you can’t do anything because of the cost cap and all these different things.

“If you look at the Red Bull – and they have done an amazing job – from Bahrain last year, they had a bouncing issue and they fixed it that week. And then you can imagine, if you’re trying to build a wall, they are one brick after the other, just development, development, development.

“Maybe they added something and it didn’t add performance. But they were still building. Whereas for us, we had to knock down the wall, if you like, in terms of aero.

“We had a lot of aero on that first car last year. We had to basically knock a ton of downforce off it and then slowly try to add. But every time we tried to add, it was worse. So we just didn’t improve for a long, long, long time.

“I think we understand the car so much better. They have developed great tools in the background. So, naturally, I’m hopeful. But I’m not going to hold my breath.”

Hamilton will remain a Mercedes driver for the next two years having signed a new extension back in August.

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