Mercedes ‘fighting over crumbs’ as ‘happy baseline’ still eludes them with W15

Henry Valantine
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in China.

Lewis Hamilton went from leading half of the Sprint to being knocked out in Q1 in China on Saturday.

Damon Hill has said Mercedes are currently “fighting over crumbs” with their performance level, which potentially explains the experimental setups they have been taking.

Lewis Hamilton explained after being knocked out in Q1 in Shanghai that he took a different direction to team-mate George Russell following Saturday’s Sprint, but a lock-up on his final flying lap cost him enough time to see him line up 18th come Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Mercedes ‘fighting over crumbs’ as latest Lewis Hamilton experiment prompted

Hamilton was at the forefront of Mercedes’ experiments in the 2022 season, as the team looked for any solution possible to their difficult start to the ground effect era as the W13 could not solve its problem with bouncing.

While the consensus between the drivers from their words this year is that their current car, the W15, has more potential within it than its immediate predecessors, its peak operating window is small – making it difficult to get the best from the car.

Former Formula 1 driver and current Sky Sports analyst Karun Chandhok explained that Hamilton’s lock-up cost him a time in Q1 on Saturday that would have made him quicker than Russell, with his laugh after his “s*** happens” assessment indicative of his current feelings, after taking an impressive podium earlier in the day in the Sprint.

“He’s sort of got to that point, it feels like, it’s so bad it becomes funny, doesn’t it? We all have those days and situations,” Chandhok said on Sky F1 after qualifying.

“But I think the reality [is], as I was saying before, if he didn’t go deep at [Turn] 14, he would have been quicker than George in that part of qualifying and he would have got through Q1, and then who knows as the session would have unfolded?

“So maybe they have gone in different setup directions, but that wasn’t what knocked him out in Q1, it was the error at [Turn] 14.”

And when it was put to 1996 World Champion Hill that the experimental setup argument is one that Mercedes have reached for on more than one occasion since the new era of Formula 1 was introduced, his response was that they are still doing all they can to find the most from their car. recommends

F1 2024: Head-to-head qualifying record between team-mates

2024 Chinese Grand Prix – Qualifying results (Shanghai International Circuit)

With that, Chandhok explained that the Silver Arrows do not appear to have the same “happy baseline” that Red Bull have, whereby they can make minor tweaks to their car from race to race and continue to have strong results.

“Well they’re fighting over the crumbs, aren’t they, of the table,” Hill added. “They’re not in the title fight. Okay, Constructors’, they want to get the best results you can but, frankly, they’re not where they want to be and where they expect to be, and so they’re trying everything.

“I don’t know what Lewis’ setup is, Nico [Rosberg] seemed to be suggesting that he doesn’t actually always have that different a setup to George, but subtle differences make a big difference in this sport.”

On that subject, Chandhok continued: “The drivers have different setups all the time. I think the point you’re making is valid. It’s just Mercedes still haven’t fully understood that clear direction.

“If you’ve got a good baseline, you will arrive at a circuit with a baseline setup that pretty much works at most circuits, and then there’ll be a little tweak there which is circuit specific, but the strong baseline will be there.

“I bet Red Bull have that baseline, I think McLaren have got that baseline now. I think Mercedes still haven’t found that happy baseline, which is why we’re still hearing about these experiments.”

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