Lewis Hamilton casts Red Bull pace verdict as Mercedes woes continue

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton looks tense ahead of the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix with a prominent Mercedes badge alongside him

Lewis Hamilton has endured a tough start to his final season with Mercedes

Involved in a brief tussle with Sergio Perez at the Australian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton reckons Red Bull’s speed advantage over Mercedes is as much as a “second” per lap.

Hamilton’s wretched weekend in Melbourne, which saw him bemoan his W15’s inconsistency, ended in retirement when his engine let go on lap 17 as he battled for a points finish.

Mercedes’ deficit to Red Bull is 71 points after three races

One such tussle, brief as it was, had him going wheel-to-wheel with Perez after the Red Bull driver made a pit stop with Perez comfortably winning that one.

“Geez, that car is fast!” Hamilton said over the radio.

Minutes later Hamilton’s race ended along with his engine, the Briton’s DNF the first of two Mercedes suffered in Melbourne as George Russell crashed on the penultimate lap.

It meant the team remained on 26 points with their deficit to Red Bull up to 71 points. Hamilton doesn’t see any chance of Mercedes closing that given Red Bull’s speed advantage on the track.

“It’s a massive gap. I think they have a second on us, something like that,” was his bleak assessment.

“The speed that he had… I mean, he was on fresh tyres but just the way he pulled away down the straight, I was like: ‘Wow, same as last year’.”

Asked what he’d learned from the race, Hamilton told F1TV: “Nothing more than I’ve known before.

“We didn’t look terrible in the high-speed [corners] but we’re slow in the low-speed this weekend, whereas in the last race, we were bad in the high-speed, good in the lower stuff. A real struggle this weekend.”

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Martin Brundle: Hamilton lacking trust in the W15

Bemoaning his car’s inconsistency, Hamilton’s troubles were evident in the race as the Briton ran wide as he struggled to turn in at Turn One.

Former F1 driver turned commentator Martin Brundle put that down to a lack of “trust and confidence” in the car.

“Lewis hasn’t been on top of this car all weekend, it just will not respond,” he told Sky Sports.

“It’s not giving him trust and confidence in turns like that, Turns One and Two at high speed, and Lewis is really struggling. We saw him [do that] so many times through there.”

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin billed it as a “bruising” weekend for the Mercedes team.

“It has been a bruising weekend for us, during which we were unable to compete on a single lap or the long runs,” he said.

“We will be continuing to trawl through the data in the coming days, to see what isn’t working and why we are only currently able to deliver flashes of performance from the car.

“It’s clear that we have much to work on, to give both drivers a better tool to work with at the race weekends.”

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