Sky F1 reporter Craig Slater believes Lewis Hamilton is “clearly worried” about how early Red Bull were able to switch their development plans over to 2024.
Such has been Red Bull’s dominance in 2023, they have been able to look ahead much earlier than would have been expected. In 2021, the team’s focus remained on that season pretty much until the end but the following years have been a different story.
With Red Bull champions in all but name, the team could start looking ahead as early as the summer break and Slater believes that will have worried Hamilton.
Red Bull’s early development a concern for Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes’ performance has picked up towards the end of this year but having won multiple titles, both the team and Hamilton are more concerned about winning races and championships than finishing second.
To that end, Slater believes every team has one eye on the future already.
“I think next season is already being contested in a way,” he said on the Sky Sports F1 podcast. “Certainly in Lewis Hamilton’s head, it seems to me, his mind is full of where next year’s car is and to what extent some of the upgrades, which will have relevance [next year] are being brought towards the end of this season.
“He’s obviously clearly worried about how early Red Bull started developing next year’s car and has a handle on that again.
“So I think in these kinds of end of season races, you do get this idea that the teams are beginning to marshal their ideas about next year and who necessarily might be where.
“Which I think, I guess from a morale perspective, [Mercedes will try to] get some results in now but you can see Lewis Hamilton very much turning his mind to 2024.”
It is not an uneducated guess either with Hamilton alluding as such earlier in the season, suggesting teams should be restricted to when they can start switching focus to the following year.
“From my personal experience, when you are so far ahead when you are 100 points ahead, you don’t really need to do a lot more development on your car so you can start earlier on your next car,” Hamilton said in June. “With a budget cap, that means spending that year’s money on the next year’s car.
“But if everyone knew you could start whatever date it is… August 1 is when everyone (can start developing), something like that, no one has a head start, and it’s a real race in that short space of time for the future car.
“I don’t know. Maybe that would help everyone be more on a closer level. I might be wrong, but something’s got to change.”