‘Mercedes are under a lot of pressure from both drivers, but more so from Lewis Hamilton’

Michelle Foster
George Russell points something out to Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton. Bahrain February 2023

George Russell points something out to Lewis Hamilton. Bahrain February 2023

Closer to the end of his career than the beginning, Naomi Schiff believes “time is of the essence” for Mercedes to get it right and give Lewis Hamilton a championship-winning car.

Having lost the 2021 World Championship to Max Verstappen in controversial circumstances, Hamilton was backed to come out fighting the following season but it was not to be.

Mercedes struggled with porpoising in the new ground effect aerodynamic era and, even once they’d resolved that, they still had a car that lacked downforce and ultimately pace.

But as the most improved team in the back half of last season, many predicted Mercedes would at the very least close the gap on Red Bull this season.

They’ve done anything but, Toto Wolff admitting their deficit to the reigning World Champions has “almost doubled if not tripled”.

It has the Brackley team contemplating changing the concept of the car, the big question being will they do that this season or only in 2024 given the cost cap.

Either way the team is under pressure from their drivers, Hamilton and George Russell, although Schiff says it may be coming more from Hamilton’s side given he wants that eighth title before he retires.

“For him [Hamilton] I guess it was the moment that confirmed that really they [Mercedes] were still really much on the back foot, and hadn’t made much or any progress in the winter period,” she said on the Sky Sports F1 Podcast.

“That for them is probably what is so hard to digest at this point.

“Lewis obviously, and he mentioned it in the Sky Sports exclusive with Simon Lazenby and his lie detector test, is here for his eighth title. He’s waiting and going to stay for it.

“But for him to be in this position, is not putting him in any sort of position to get that eighth title.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure internally, from both drivers, but I guess even more so from Lewis because he’s not getting any younger. He’s obviously got Fernando [Alonso] to look up to in terms of how far you can go. But time is of the essence.

“They [Mercedes] spent an entire season struggling and being unhappy with where they were at with the car.

“So to have had this whole winter period and come back even a step backwards from where they were at the last race last season, that is what is so tough to accept.

“Especially when your customer team has managed to smash it.”

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But while Schiff speaks of pressure, Hamilton says he wants to be the “positive light” that guides Mercedes.

“Concerned wouldn’t be the word,” he said. “There is nothing I can say, I don’t want to say too much. We’ve just got to keep working.

“We know we are not where we need to be, and we know that this isn’t the right car. It is a difficult one.

“But I’ve just got to try and stay positive, keep my head up and keep pushing the guys. Keep trying to be a positive light for them and get the best points I can.”

Last season Hamilton recorded his first winless campaign ever in Formula 1 but based on Bahrain, he reckons even a podium is a long way off right now.

“We were miles away,” he said. “There was a Ferrari that would’ve been ahead of him [third-placed Alonso], so we would’ve really been sixth. So a podium was nowhere near.”

In the aftermath of the Bahrain Grand Prix, James Allison, ex-chief technical officer at Mercedes, was rumoured to be returning to the F1 team in an official capacity to help the Silver Arrows overcome this tough period. However, PlanetF1.com understands those reports are wide of the mark.