Lewis Hamilton disappointed Mercedes not closer to front despite improvements

Mercedes have finally installed their long awaited upgrades ahead of the Monaco GP but continue to struggle against rivals
Mercedes’ upgrades aren’t enough to compete against rivals
Mercedes’ upgrades aren’t enough to compete against rivals

(Motorsport) Lewis Hamilton has given credit to Mercedes’ upgrades, saying he can feel the improvements in the W14 but conceded it was “a bit of a shame” not to be closer to rivals Red Bull and Max Verstappen. The seven time world champion was third fastest in the opening practice session but finished sixth in Practice Two. However, the Silver Arrows can take solace in the fact that the W14 remained just half a second behind Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen in each session.

Mercedes’ upgrades included new sidepods, floor and front suspension and while Hamilton believes these are positive signs, he’s unsure if the car is fast enough to fight for pole position during Saturday’s qualifying session. He said “I’ve generally had an amazing day. I really enjoyed driving today. It’s not the place to ultimately test an upgrade but the car was generally feeling good. A bit of a shame we weren’t as close as I’d have hoped at the end of the session but definitely felt the improvements and we’ve just got to keep chipping away at it and see if we can squeeze any more juice out of the car.

“There is [one area where seeing most improvement] and it’s very clear where the lack of performance is for me and so we’ll talk about that in the debrief, put our heads together and try and figure out how we can do that within what we have and hopefully this gives us a platform to build on moving forwards. In P1 I thought maybe we were looking pretty good but we’re always looking pretty good in P1 for some reason. In [the second session] we were close to half a second off and maybe that could have been three tenths but I don’t think we have half a second in the bag. We’ll see, we’ll work on it and see if we can squeeze more out of it tonight.”

Hamilton’s teammate George Russell had a much more difficult day as he finished 15th in Practice One, 1.6 seconds behind Carlos Sainz’s best time and 12th in Practice Two, seven tenth’s behind Verstappen. The 25 year old believes that the new upgrades create a good base performance but understands that competing for pole will be difficult. He said “Qualifying is the most important part of the weekend and is a part of the weekend where we generally struggle, we always do better on a Sunday. 

“We need to try and figure some stuff out overnight. There are definitely some positive signs to take from the session, definitely improved from FP1, it’s never easy around this place. We know that the base performance of the car is good and we normally maybe overachieve on a Sunday and underachieve on Saturday so we need to try and flip those over this weekend. It’s a matter of moments and sometimes a bit baked into the car so I’m not expecting tomorrow to be an easy day. We’ll work hard and see what we can do.

“We hope we’re with Aston and Ferrari – that’s where we’re aiming towards, obviously Red Bull are a little bit in a league of their own at the moment. The midfield is tight and we’ve seen a number of times this year that a McLaren or an Alpine or even a Haas jumps ahead of us on a Saturday but they’re nowhere on a Sunday. If they do manage to do that this Saturday they will probably be with us this Sunday so we need to work on our qualifying pace for this event and re-assess the car globally next weekend.”

Mercedes trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said “We haven’t seen major problems which is a useful start to it. We’re just playing with the normal set-up parameters here. You don’t design a car for Monaco, you design it for your Silverstones and Barcelonas so the challenge is always how do you take that car designed for another circuit and get it to work around this slow, bumpy, very tight and twisty track. 

“We’re very much in the situation of looking at the car we’ve brought here and thinking ‘oh we would have done that differently if we did it again’. If you start with a clean sheet it’s a lot easier to optimise than if you’re halfway through your development and have to make a pretty big change. The positive is that we have a big long list of things we’d like to do that we know will bring performance, but it was a really impressive job to what is now race six.”

Also read: Formula 1: Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes close to agreeing on contract extension


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