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"We are miles off," warns Hamilton


Lewis Hamilton calls for "big changes" at Mercedes as the seven-time world champion is left frustrated by the W15's lack of pace.

"Today was not a good day for us," said Toto Wolff at the end of a day in which his drivers finished over 40s down on the winning Red Bull. "It is clear that we are struggling with the car in the high-speed corners," he added.

"We are competitive elsewhere but in three corners here, we were losing about half-a-second. It was therefore incredibly difficult for the drivers to attack.

"We tried something different on the strategy but unfortunately, with the low levels of degradation we saw across the field, it didn't work out for us."

Hamilton was even more forthright, having spent the opening laps of the race shadowing his teammate before switching strategies in the aftermath of Lance Stroll's crash and changing to a longer opening stint.

Finally pitting on Lap 36, after losing out to Perez, Leclerc, Norris and finally Piastri, Hamilton rejoined the race in ninth, subsequently finding himself behind Norris who had pitted a lap later.

As he pursued the McLaren, Hamilton, on several occasions, commented on the huge speed advantage the MCL38 enjoyed. As Norris pursued seventh placed Oliver Bearman, his struggle to hold off Hamilton was enough to allow the Ferrari rookie to hold on to the position.

"The car is relatively good in the low speed (sections) and not so bad in the medium speed, but in the high-speed we are miles off," said Hamilton at race end.

"It was like I was in a different category when I was going through the high-speed between the other guys around me," he added.

"It's frustrating for sure to be in three years in a row in almost the same position," he sighed. "It's definitely tough but we will get our heads down and keep working away, and I know everyone back at the factory is pushing as hard as they can."

In the wake of the disappointment of the previous two seasons, Mercedes returned to the drawing board for the W15, but the seven-time champ warns the team hasn't gone far enough.

"We've definitely got to make some big changes," he warned. "We haven't made big enough changes, perhaps. If you look at the three teams ahead of us, they still have different concept to where we are in some areas. So we've got some performance to add, that's for sure."

Referring to the change of strategy, he said: "I think it was worth trying something different. Splitting the cars and trying different strategies, and ultimately that's always the goal to do something a little bit different, particularly when we're in the position we're in. I was fighting as hard as I could to go long and I was hoping for a Safety Car or something but it was just unfortunate nothing came out.

"I wouldn't say I'm having fun," he admitted, leading some to suggest that it was a feeling that Mercedes wouldn't make a big enough improvement this year that caused him to jump ship to Ferrari. "Racing for ninth, or finishing ninth is definitely not fun, but I am enjoying the actual racing part.

"I was hunting and I was pushing as hard as I could, I was maximising everything I had with the car, I was right on the edge, it was just unfortunately really lacking performance in the high speed where they were walking all over us."

"We're still really trying to understand this car because we have shown true performance at points over the last two weekends," added teammate Russell. "FP1, straight out of the box, we were top of the timesheets and always in the top three. In FP2 we were P2. Then both weekends the pace just fell away from us. That hasn't been our competitors getting faster; it's been us getting slower.

"We need to understand why that is, but it's fine margins now," he added. "It's so close with ourselves, McLaren... Aston... Ferrari is just a smidge ahead. We just need to tap into it a bit more."

Convinced that his team has gone the right way, Wolff believes that correlation issues are at the heart of the problem.

"I think there is a bigger factor with a lack of high speed than just the rear wing," said the Austrian, when asked if the decision to run a less-loaded rear wing configuration was compromising his drivers in the fast corners. "We are missing downforce beyond the steps that you would have with a bigger rear wing.

"We tried that with Lewis and there is something that we don't understand, because we are quick everywhere else pretty much and we know that we have a smaller rear wing. We are compensating what we are losing through the corners, but it's just the high speed where we are losing all the lap time."

Admitting that work done on the simulator is not being reflected on track, when asked if a different set-up might solve the issue, he replied: "I think that's a biggie. There is only so much you can tune here.

"Our simulation points us in a direction and this is the set-up range that we then choose, you put the right rear wing on and I think you gain a few tenths if you get the set-up right or wrong. But it is not a massive corridor of performance. It's more a fundamental thing that we believe the speed should be there, we measure the downforce, but we don't find it on the lap time.

"We had so much unknowns in the past year, where we thought this could be a reason and this could be a reason and this could be a reason, and we fixed that," he added. "We can see from the sensors that we have what we needed. But there is still this behaviour of the car in a certain speed range that our sensors and simulations say this is where we should have the downforce and we are not having it."

Added to which, Jeddah witnessed the return of the infamous bouncing phenomenon.

"It's been two and a half years that we are chasing this fundamental," he said "it's been two years that there is something that we need to spot, and that's the thing to unlock. It is not by lack of trying, we have pushed so hard and we have got to give it a massive, massive go now in the next week with more data to understand and come back to Melbourne stronger.

"We are on a mission on this one and I am 100 per cent sure we are going to unlock that performance gap."

Check out our Saturday gallery from Jeddah here.


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1. Posted by kenji, 13/03/2024 1:25

"@ Chester....In my non aero fog I have a question. Why not reintroduce 'skirts' as this would effect a greater curtain and still allow downforce to work efficiently. Sorted hahaha"

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2. Posted by Chester, 10/03/2024 19:10

"Agree, Kenji. I thought Mercedes learned how to overcome the low ride height issue last year. I understand the desire to lower ride height, but if you can't control the oscillations then you have failed in the objective of low ride height.


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3. Posted by kenji, 10/03/2024 12:16

"Wolff and his empty words... My extremely meagre understanding of the aero fundamentals, and confirmed by multi learned proponents, is that to avoid oscillations the ride height needs to be lifted. In the words of the old Sinatra song, with lyrics be the famous Sammy Cahn, 'Love and Marriage, go together like a horse and carriage, you can't have one without the other'. Seems rather apt in this instance but even if they get around to sorting this out Hamilton will just find something else to biatch about. Change can't come soon enough."

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4. Posted by Wokingchap, 10/03/2024 10:51

"I am 100 per cent sure we are going to unlock that performance gap."......i really hope he's right."

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