Lewis Hamilton lacking one thing he needs from Mercedes W15 at Saudi Grand Prix

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W15 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton driving the Mercedes W15.

Lewis Hamilton said all he needs is a stable Mercedes W15 rear end to be happy at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but does not have it.

Mercedes and Hamilton went into the Saudi Arabian GP race weekend looking for an improved display after he and team-mate George Russell were hamstrung by engine overheating issues at the Bahrain season opener, though the fresh race weekend in Jeddah has not got off to an ideal start for Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton just needs stable Mercedes W15 rear

Hamilton ended the second, more representative hour of practice down in P8, four-tenths off Russell’s pace, while Hamilton was also given a reprimand for impeding Williams’ Logan Sargeant during that FP2 session.

Speaking to reporters after FP2, Hamilton said he is lacking confidence in the rear end of the W15, which explains his Thursday struggles.

“Difficult day, just lacking the confidence in the rear of the car,” Hamilton admitted.

“The setup we did some work session to session, changed the car quite a bit, but underlying issue with the rear end that I was struggling with, so I had a couple of really big moments out there.

“In these high-speed areas you need to have full faith in the rear of the car and I just don’t have that yet.

“George is a lot happier with his car. We kind of went in different directions today. We were trying different things to try and find the right solution for the car.

“But all I want is something with a stable rear and then I’ll be happy, so that’s what I’m working on.”

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Russell confirmed that he and Hamilton went in extreme opposites with their setup, though the “perfect window” for the W15 is yet to be found.

And while overall he was happy with the low-fuel performance, finishing P2 in FP2 and two-tenths off Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, the W15’s long-run pace remains an unknown.

“Little bit of a scrappy session,” he said. “I don’t think we probably had the car in the perfect window.

“I think the lap times looked good in the low fuel. High fuel pace, not too sure where we’re at really.

“But it’s so close again. The Astons have been a bit of a surprise, but great to see they’re up there. We’ve got work to do overnight and see what we can achieve tomorrow.

“We did a lot of testing today. In FP1 Lewis started with one setup, I started drastically different. And then in FP2 we did a complete opposites, we swapped setups to see what works, trying to learn more about the car, trying to get feedback from us both.

“And it’s still early days, it’s only the second race of the season, it’s a new car, we’ve only been at one circuit beforehand and we need to keep on learning.

“As I said, let’s see what we can do tonight, everybody back home is going to be working hard on the simulator and try and eke out a bit more performance.”

While Russell is not too sure how Mercedes stack up on race pace, he suspects their fight will be with Ferrari and Aston Martin, predicting Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez to be clear out front in the Red Bulls once more.

“It’s a little bit too early to say because I haven’t actually seen the lap times,” he said.

“For sure Max is the quickest, Checo is not too far behind. But it’s difficult to follow at the moment. I think the cars are becoming increasingly harder to follow as the years progress and I think it’s going to be tight again as we saw in Bahrain.

“Ferrari and Aston probably look like our biggest threats and rivals at the moment, but I think it’s going to go down to qualifying.”

Verstappen completed the top three in FP2 at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, three-tenths down on Alonso.

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