Hamilton: “Greatest six months of development” needed for Mercedes F1 to catch Red Bull

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Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

It’s hard to decide what Lewis Hamilton must be more frustrated by; the current pace deficit to Red Bull (and indeed their customer team McLaren) or having to constantly answer questions about it.

If you enter into Google “Lewis Hamilton W14 development” there are 389,000 results where as if you replace that with “Max Verstappen RB19 development” there are 121,000 results — just to give you an indication of just how much conversation is around the Brackley-based team being unusually stuck in a rut this season and last.

Alas, for Hamilton, fielding such questions is part of his job and therefore following the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend at Suzuka, field them he did. In Japan Mercedes was possibly the joint third quickest car, with Charles Leclerc finishing in 4th ahead of Hamilton in 5th.

Without some jostling between Hamilton and his teammate Russell, there would be a good possibility that Hamilton would have been right there with the Monagasque driver by the end of Sunday’s Grand Prix and facing less pressure from the chasing Sainz in the other Ferrari.

Regardless of the result however, the really telling numbers are that Hamilton finished the race over 49 seconds behind race winner Max Verstappen. During Saturday’s qualifying session, the British driver was 1 second off the pace of Verstappen — a huge gulf by Formula One standards. Thus, the tired seven-time-world champion emerged to face plenty enquiries from the media post-race.

“I mean I’m exhausted for one, fighting the car, fighting with absolutely everything I have to get as high up as possible and get ahead of Ferrari, which had an upgrade this week, so they were particularly quick.”

Conversation turned swiftly to plans of developing the Mercedes to bring the fight back to Red Bull once again in 2024, with Hamilton saying the team had taken on board all the points both he and his teammate had given regarding the car as well as pulling no punches when it came to the challenge ahead.

“I have no idea where the car is going to be next year. But we are a long, long way away. We’ve got to hope the next sixth months has to be the greatest six months of development that we’ve ever had just to close that gap, to be really banging on the door.”

Citing the big step in performance of his former team McLaren as evidence that hugely significant leaps can be made, the 38-year-old driver believes it can be done:

“The evidence is there with the McLarens and we can’t turn a blind eye to that. We’ve got to look at what they’ve done and go in that direction. That is the direction. But I truly believe my team can do it.”

Though the team was forced to radically alter the car concept they started the season with by the time the Monaco Grand Prix came around, Hamilton is hopeful that one of the most successful teams the sport has ever seen can rise to the top once again — provided they choose the right path in the coming months:

“We still are an amazing team. I have absolute faith in everyone, but the decisions made in this period of time are critical for our trajectory.”

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team