Hamilton: Mercedes’ high-speed cornering weakness made it feel like a “different category” in F1 Saudi Arabian GP

Photo Credits: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
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Lewis Hamilton didn’t hold back in his criticism of Mercedes’ stark performance weakness through the high-speed corners around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit, saying he felt like he was in a “different category” whilst battling those around him at the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP to finish a lowly 9th, as he lost a huge amount of time through the fast, twisty first sector of the lap on a consistent basis.

Hamilton was one of four drivers to stay out during the safety car after Lance Stroll’s hefty impact with the barriers on lap seven. That meant the Briton had an offset strategy compared to the majority of the field that came in for the hard tyres. Lando Norris, Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu were the other to try the same strategy.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, Hamilton admitted the strategy was based around the possibility of another safety car coming out later on in the race, which didn’t materialise, and meant he had to fight through the field late on.

“I think it was worth trying something different,” said Hamilton. “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.”

And whilst the strategy was far from ideal for the seven-time world champion, he pointed out one particular weakness in the Mercedes that was very clearly – even for those watching – costing him a lot of lap time compared to those around him, especially Norris’ McLaren, and even went as far as saying it felt like “a different category” such was the pace difference around the first sector of the lap:

“The car is relatively good in the low speed and not so bad in the medium [speed], but in the high-speed we are miles off,” he said. “It was like I was in a different category when I was going through the high-speed between the other guys around me.”

The Briton, who is set to join Ferrari for the 2025 F1 season, didn’t hold back in his criticism of Mercedes’ seemingly stale progress since the start of the ground-effect era in 2022, stating the team has been in “almost the same position” for three years in a row:

“It’s frustrating for sure to be in three years in a row in the same – or almost the same – position. 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.”

“We’ve definitely got to make some big changes,” added the seven-time champion. “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.”

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the Brackley squad, as Hamilton reckons their slow speed prowess will pay dividends later on in the season if they can fix the high-speed weakness and will put them “in the fight” with those ahead:

“I wouldn’t say I’m having fun,” Hamilton said. “I’m racing for ninth, I can’t say that … finishing ninth is definitely not fun. I am enjoying the actual racing part and I was hunting and I was pushing as much as I could. I was maximizing everything I had with the car, was right on the edge but unfortunately just really lacking performance in the high speed where [McLaren] were all over us.

“But there are positives — the car is good in low speed, we have got some areas that we have to add a lot of load in the high speed. I think if we are able to do that then I think it puts us in the fight.”