Mercedes reveal issue with Lewis Hamilton’s W14 compromised Baku setup work

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton speaking to his mechanics in the Mercedes garage. Azerbaijan April 2023

Lewis Hamilton speaking to his mechanics in the Mercedes garage. Azerbaijan April 2023

Teams were already up against it to nail their setup for the Baku weekend, and for Mercedes a problem on Lewis Hamilton’s car only made their task more difficult.

The Formula 1 sprint format made its return for F1 2023 at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, though the altered process made for a Grand Prix which was the first of its kind.

Gone is the second practice session on a Saturday morning. Now, there is just the one hour of Friday practice before heading into qualifying, which sets the grid for Sunday’s Grand Prix.

The sprint now then is a self-contained entity in its own right on Saturday, with a shortened Q1, Q2 and Q3 qualifying, with stipulations on which tyres can be used when, held earlier in the day to determine the sprint starting order.

It is at the end of Friday qualifying then when teams and drivers see the cars locked into parc ferme conditions, making finding that required setup on the opening day rather tricky indeed.

And for Mercedes, they had hoped to do themselves a favour by running Hamilton and George Russell with different setups in practice to get a good comparison, but actually, trouble on Hamilton’s car put a spanner in the works on that plan.

Speaking in Mercedes’ post-Baku debrief, chief technical officer Mike Elliott, when asked if the new format impacted Mercedes’ ability to find a proper setup, said: “In terms of our setup, I think it’s pretty challenging.

“You’ve only got one one-hour session of FP1 to get the car right. And that’s on a circuit that’s been resurfaced, so how the tyres are going to work and interact with that surface is different to what we might have expected.

“So we turned up having a setup we were going to try with Lewis and a setup we were going to try with George, and in actual fact what happened to us is we had an issue with Lewis’ car getting it out of the garage on time, because of a parameter in the car.

“And as a consequence of that it made it very difficult to compare those two setups.”

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So, with Mercedes then forced to make a choice one way or the other, do they believe they went in the right direction?

Well, Elliott admitted that even now with the weekend having come and gone, they still are not sure.

“I think in hindsight, we’re still not convinced of whether we made the right choice or didn’t make the right choice,” he said.

“It’s the same for everybody. Everybody’s got that same format to deal with, everybody’s got that same challenge of one hour to deal with.”

While Russell scored a P4 finish for Mercedes in the sprint, the Grand Prix was a tougher afternoon as Hamilton crossed the line P6, with Russell coming home in P8.

The team remain though still very much in touching distance of Aston Martin who hold P2 in the Constructors’ standings, Mercedes going into the Miami GP with a deficit of 11 points to address.