Andrew Shovlin admitted Mercedes went too far in trying to find a better setup for Lewis Hamilton in Jeddah, which ultimately backfired.
The Mercedes trackside engineering director said the team thought they had found a different route for the seven-time World Champion heading into Saturday’s running, but admitted the team don’t quite fully understand the W13 just yet, which caused Hamilton to have a lack of rear grip while out on track.
The perils around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit are well-known, as evidenced by Mick Schumacher’s horror crash in qualifying, and Shovlin believes that the setup with which Hamilton entered parc fermé conditions prevented him from fully attacking the track, which in turn partly caused his shock Q1 exit.
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“Well, there’s a few reasons but fundamentally, we don’t really understand the car yet as well as we do it at the end of the year, we’ve only had two races with it,” Shovlin explained in the team’s post-race debrief video.
“So, we are always exploring the setup with Lewis, trying to find a direction that delivers performance and we’d found a good direction from Friday into Saturday that he was able to try in the third practice session.
“We went quite a bit further on that into the qualifying session, but ultimately it was a bit too far. So, from the word go, he was lacking rear grip, Jeddah is a street circuit that you need a lot of confidence, it’s very fast, the walls are very close and when you haven’t got the rear grip, the driver can’t have that confidence.
“So, ultimately, we pushed it a bit too far but it was a useful learning exercise. Fundamentally though the problem right now is the car is not fast enough and unless we get it perfect, we are going to be at risk in those sessions. So, we need to make a quicker car as soon as possible.”
Hamilton did make headway into recovering from his lowly starting slot during the race, but the ill-timed Virtual Safety Car period from his point of view saw him drop to a P10 finish in Jeddah – which is only the second time he has finished 10th or lower in a race since the Spanish Grand Prix in 2013.
Mercedes are reportedly looking at bringing a new rear wing with them to the next race in Melbourne, as they look to tweak the W13 and find performance.
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