Mercedes W15 breakthrough as Lewis Hamilton acquires key knowledge in Japan qualifying

Oliver Harden
Lewis Hamilton faces the media at Suzuka with a prominent Mercedes logo alongside him

Lewis Hamilton has suffered his worst start to an F1 season, but is there some light at the end of the tunnel?

Lewis Hamilton has hailed Japanese Grand Prix qualifying as a breakthrough moment in his understanding of the Mercedes W15, revealing he now has a firm idea of the development direction required in F1 2024.

Hamilton has suffered his worst-ever start to the season in 2024, finishing no higher than seventh across the opening three races in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

Lewis Hamilton makes Mercedes W15 breakthrough

The seven-time World Champion suffered an engine failure after just 15 laps of the last race in Melbourne, where he admitted his confidence in the Mercedes car had never been lower.

Hamilton has cut a more optimistic figure in Japan this weekend, with the 39-year-old a constant fixture in the top five throughout practice before qualifying seventh – outpacing team-mate George Russell on a Saturday for the first time this season.

His lap for seventh on the grid was within six tenths of Max Verstappen’s pace-setting Red Bull, having qualified more than a second adrift of the reigning World Champion on F1’s last visit to Suzuka in September 2023. recommends

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Speaking to Sky F1 after qualifying, Hamilton revealed he has stopped playing around with his setup this weekend and now has a more complete understanding of the W15’s weaknesses.

He said: “I was giving it everything.

“The team did a really great job this past week understanding – or making adjustments to – our setup.

“It’s actually the first weekend I’ve not gone crazy with setup and testing a bunch of things, so I’m back to being a bit more normal and I think we’ve got the car into a much nicer working window.

“Every lap, it’s been really enjoyable driving, it’s just the guys ahead are just a little bit faster.

“We were just over a second off the Red Bull last year and seven (sic) tenths is better. I think, if we’d done something a little bit different, maybe we could have been another tenth faster. Maybe.

“But other than that, that was everything.

“I think what it’s given us is that I know exactly where the car is not strong enough.

“I can feel it in the car and I know now to be able to like tell them: ‘Push in this particular area.’

“I’m hoping the race will be stronger and I’ve really enjoyed driving the car this weekend.”

Asked if Mercedes have now established a good direction for the car’s development for the rest of the season, he added: “I personally believe so.

“What we’ve noticed is from track to track it’s been really, really hard to get the setup right and it’s been so far out each time.

“In some places you just felt like nothing we could do gets the car in a sweet spot, but this weekend it’s much more in a sweet spot.

“So I hope that continues in the following races and then we’ve just got to add performance.”

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