Toto Wolff pinpoints one problem with the W14 that’s notably hurting Lewis Hamilton

Michelle Foster
Mercedes team principal Lewis Hamilton speaking to Toto Wolff in the garage, hand gesture. Saudi Arabia March 2023

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton speaking to Toto Wolff in the garage at the 2023 Saudi Arabia Grand Prix.

Second best to George Russell at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Toto Wolff acknowledges Lewis Hamilton doesn’t “trust” his W14 nor does it give him the feedback he needs to “really push” himself.

Hamilton was out-qualified by Russell at the Jeddah circuit on Saturday night, the seven-time World Champion four-tenths down on his compatriot and not happy about it.

“I just don’t feel the car underneath me,” he told Sky Sports F1 on the night. “I just don’t feel connected to this car, and I can’t get it. So I don’t really know what I’m going to do about that.”

He added: “It’s tough, I’m giving it absolutely everything.”

He was again second best of the Mercedes team-mates in the grand prix, fifth to his team-mate’s P4, and again admitted something wasn’t right.

Declaring his set-up is “more often than not” the “wrong one”, he reckons had he copied his team-mate he “would have been in a better position.”

His comments come at the start of a season in which Mercedes have conceded they got it “wrong” with their W14’s concept, the team already putting plans into place to change that.

This coming on the back of a 2022 season in which Hamilton lost to Russell, only the third time in his F1 career that a team-mate has finished ahead of him in the standings, has some wondering whether Hamilton struggles to drive around a car’s problems.

Wolff puts it down to trust in the car and says that’s something Hamilton needs in order to “really push” himself.

“They are different drivers and need a car with a certain handling in order to be able to drive fast,” the motorsport boss explained as per F1-Insider.

“At no point this season has Lewis felt the kind of feedback from the car that allows him to really push himself to the limit.

“If you have a car that you don’t trust, then you can’t push in the corners. That’s what we saw in qualifying.

“George can drive around it better and has more confidence in the car.”

He added: “It’s up to us to give both of them a car that they can drive to the front.”

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The Austrian believes most of Hamilton’s problems with the car lie in the rear end.

“We have a fundamental issue he’s not happy with, and that is linked to the way he feels the rear end of the car, ” said Wolff. “And that’s not something that can be cured quickly.

“But the drivers are the most important sensors in the car and if they tell us that’s what they feel, we need to consider that.”

As for Hamilton, he feels resolving the car’s rear end problems, namely adding more downforce, will go a long way towards solving the issues with the car.

“We’re a long way down on downforce,” he said. “So we’ve got to pick up the rear end downforce particularly.

“The more rear we gain, the more stable the rear becomes, and the more confident I’ll be able to attack.

“But I think in general, just this car, even if we do change that, there’s a specific thing with something on the car that I have never had before.

“It’s a position I’ve not had in previous years’ cars. For me, it’s the thing that is making me uncomfortable. I’ve just got to work hard to make sure it is changed.”

He revealed qualifying with its low-fuel runs exacerbates the problem.

“It’s on a massive knife edge when you’re above about 95%,” he said. “But when you’re in a race stint, it’s much more controllable and predictable.

“I still don’t have the confidence in the race, but I’m doing the best I can with it.”