‘We Are Yet To Improve’ – Lewis Hamilton dispirited as car way off F1 pace again

After finishing sixth in the Miami Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton said that Mercedes had failed to develop their car in the first five races of the season. As they explore scrapping the design concept next year, the seven-time world champion revealed they were not moving forward with a car that his team principal, Toto Wolff, acknowledged is off the pace and is a handful to handle and understand.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won the race after passing Charles Leclerc for the lead on lap nine and then driving a controlled and dominant race to the finish line. The Dutchman put on a magnificent performance, with Ferrari simply unable to keep up. As a result, he reduced the gap on Leclerc to 19 points.

Mercedes had brought their first substantial improvements of the season to Miami, and they were hopeful that they could at least take the incremental steps necessary to get more out of their car, which is still suffering from extreme porpoising on the straights, which has kept them from unlocking its full potential after five races. Hamilton did better in qualifying, finishing sixth, and he and teammate George Russell finished sixth and fifth in the race, respectively.

However, they are still up to about a second a lap behind the leaders, and the hoped-for improvement was not found in Miami.

“Unfortunately we are at the same speed as we were in the first race,” said Hamilton. “We haven’t improved in these five races but I am hopeful, we have to keep trying and keep working hard.”

This season, the British driver, who is used to competing at the front for wins and the championship, has been in a completely different battle. At best, Hamilton’s car is third fastest, but he has frequently found himself in a middle duel unlike any he has experienced in his career. He’s taking the task front on, with a full season of 18 races ahead of him.

“It’s still racing,” he explained, “it’s just a different perspective, a different point of view.” “You want to move forward, but it’s tough to do so while you’re stuck.” It is what it is, but it is unquestionably an experience.”

Although Hamilton has already written off his title prospects, Mercedes believes that this year’s car has the potential to improve and that, if their faults are resolved, it could be very fast. Their mission was once again written large in Miami, with its unexpected character exposed. Russell was fastest in second practice but admitted he didn’t feel confident in the same car during qualifying, finishing 12th. Even after five races, Wolff stated that mastering the car remained a dark art, one that he described in a dissatisfied manner.

“There is potential in the car and she is fast but we just don’t understand how to unlock the potential.” he said. “It is a car that is super difficult to drive, dipping in and out of the performance window – more out than in – and dissecting the data with a scalpel is a painful process.

“The data sometimes doesn’t show what the drivers tell us and suddenly they have their hands full with a car that is not nice, comfortable or predictable to drive.”

With the new regulations in place this year, the teams have presented a number of innovative concepts throughout the grid, and some, like leaders Ferrari and Red Bull, have successfully handled the porpoising problem with their cars. Mercedes is at a critical juncture in terms of how they choose to move forward in 2023, with choices on design routes for next year’s automobiles to be made soon. In Miami, Wolff emphasized the importance of the upcoming round in Barcelona.

“We have stayed committed to the current concept, we are faithful to the current concept, we are not looking at the lady next door to see if we like it more,” he said. “Before we make a decision on switching to another concept we need to understand where this one went wrong. What is the good and what is the bad. I would be asking for an answer after Barcelona and then we have to look ourselves in the mirror and ask: ‘Did we get it wrong or not?’”

 

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