‘Mercedes W14 upgrade has forced Lewis Hamilton to change his driving style’

Oliver Harden
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in FP1. Monaco May 2023.

Lewis Hamilton rounds Rascasse during FP1 in his updated Mercedes W14. Monaco May 2023.

Formula 1 commentator Peter Windsor believes Lewis Hamilton has had to alter his driving style in recent weeks to make the most of the upgraded Mercedes W14.

Having initially retained the divisive zero-pod concept for the 2023 season, Mercedes were forced into making sweeping changes to the car following a bruising season-opener in Bahrain.

A heavily revised W14, featuring a more conventional sidepod design and a Red Bull-esque anti-dive suspension layout, was introduced at the Monaco Grand Prix, where Hamilton and team-mate George Russell finished fourth and fifth respectively.

Although Russell was eliminated in Q2 in challenging conditions at the following round in Spain, the Mercedes drivers emerged as Red Bull’s closest challengers in Barcelona as the team recorded their first two-car podium finish of the year.

Having watched from trackside in Monaco, Windsor – a close confidant of the esteemed driver coach Rob Wilson, who has worked with such figures as Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen over many years – was shocked to find Russell driving a “shorter corner” than Hamilton at Rascasse.

And with the seven-time World Champion more adept at generating tyre temperature than Russell in qualifying in Barcelona, he feels the changes the car have forced Hamilton to drive in a different way.

Appearing via his YouTube channel, he said: “Since the ‘B version’ of the W14’s come out, I think Lewis has twigged that with the additional anti-dive he’s got and the lack of feel and various other bits that’s going on, he needs to start taking a bit of a longer corner to get the feel he needs from the car and maybe to get the tyres working a little bit better as well at the front.

“And I think that’s why he’s doing quite well with this car and that’s why you’re not seeing Lewis with his classic short corners.

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“He’s normally right there with Max [Verstappen] and Charles [Leclerc] in terms of the rotation point he brakes to and the way he gets that point, everything’s beautiful to watch.

“But this year, if anybody’s got a shorter corner it is George of the two Merc drivers. And that’s quite interesting, isn’t it?

“It’s a bit like the situation with Oscar [Piastri] and Lando [Norris, at McLaren]. Oscar’s thinking: ‘I need to do what Max is doing and start shortening my corners. Why am I spending all this time out here when I could be making a shorter racetrack?’

“Equally, I think George might have been watching Lewis for quite a long time and thinking: ‘Yeah, that’s what he does, maybe I can save myself a little bit of energy here.’

“He’s doing it quite well, but now’s the time with that car maybe not to be doing that. We’ll see how Lewis looks [in Canada].”

Windsor pointed to the opening series of corners in Montreal as a chance to get a better gauge of the changes Hamilton has implemented at this weekend’s Canadian GP, with the change-of-direction sequence between Turns 1 and 2 revealing the difference between the good and the great in F1.

He explained: “There’s a very good section of road in Canada after Turn 1. As they come out of Turn 1 and then have to brake for Turn 2, which is the hairpin, there’s virtually no room to get the car absolutely straight for the hard braking into 2.

“So you either compromise your exit out of 1 or you go into 2 with the car a little bit unsettled and hope that because it’s a slow corner it won’t be too big a drama – but there is a straight after that so it is a drama.

“This is another thing that Max will be doing incredibly well.

“He’ll be literally creating a millisecond when he’s got the car with very little load right in the middle of the change of the direction where he’s just going to get the car stopped, he’s going to brake efficiently at that point and by the time you’ve blinked the car will be just going nicely into 2 and you’ll think: ‘Wow, it’s cornering on rails! He’s got so much grip!’

“But what he’s done is he’s just found the perfect moment on the change of direction to do it. Lewis will be really good at that as well.

“I guess Charles will be – I’m hoping he will be for Charles’ sake – but that’s where I think you’ll see a Carlos [Sainz] or a [Sergio] Perez or perhaps a George, maybe a Lando, at some point they’re going to brake with too much load that way or this way and you’re going to see [a moment].

“But Max will [make it] look to the eye absolutely seamless. That’s a really good bit of road just there, I think it’s the best bit of road in Canada.”