Hamilton says W14 needs more “rear downforce and a little bit more efficiency” to catch Red Bull

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The Canadian GP was a bittersweet one for Mercedes.

The Brackley-based team seems to have found its way back towards the top. A good change from the first part of the year, which saw the team struggling, far from competing for the top positions and the perfection that the top teams bring.

Lewis Hamilton returned to compete for the podium, ultimately finishing third. However, it cannot be a complete celebration. For George Russell, the Canadian GP started in fourth position, then suffered a broken front wing, a rear-right puncture that led to a DNF later with brake problems. The crash on lap 12 was very costly.

During post-race interviews, Lewis Hamilton talked about his feelings for the weekend, how the team managed to get on the trajectory they had hoped for in recent months, and the work still to be done to catch up with Red Bull.

The seven-time World Champion also spoke about the enjoyment of battling the Aston of Fernando Alonso.

“It’s been a great weekend. Very difficult with the conditions but loving being in the car now with the car in a better window and a bit more on the right track. And for us to be up there, having battles with Fernando in the Aston, and being just on the second row, it’s been great. And to be on the podium, two races in a row is really, really fantastic for us. We were also running fourth in Monaco, so we’re definitely getting closer. And it’s going to be a battle of development, I guess, over the rest of the season. I reckon Max’s team are already working on next year’s car, so we need to take our eye a little bit off the ball and focus on next year also but yeah, happy to be up there.

“I think we are slowly chipping away. I think the Astons took a little bit of a step ahead this weekend when they added the upgrades but we’re working on bringing some more moving forwards. But to just have this consistency and to be up on the podium here in Montréal, which is such an incredible city and we’ve got such a great crowd here every single year without fail. So big thank you to everyone here.”

Photo Credit: @MercedesAMGF1

A good race still involves hard work, particularly on consistency, rear downforce and improving on lower-speed corners. The 103-time Grand Prix winner went on to explain:

“Well, firstly, quite an honour to be up there with two world champions. I was really excited to be third and just trying to be in that mix. But unfortunately, we didn’t have the pace today. I think where we struggle… I mean, we knew that this weekend, this wouldn’t be our strongest circuit, as we struggle in the lower-speed corners particularly. And that’s really where I was losing to Fernando and to Max, just on traction out of Turn 2, out of pretty much every corner. We’ve got a lot of work to do just to add rear downforce to the car and a little bit more efficiency, but we’re chipping away as I said, and I do believe we will get there at some stage. Max was a little bit gone, but I think our pace is a little bit closer today, so we are going in the right direction.”

The step forward from the beginning of the year is not yet sufficiently strong to make a consistent difference in the car to go for victories at present. Part of the future plan, the updates and features needed in anticipation of the car for the 2024 season.

“In truth, it doesn’t feel a huge difference to the beginning of the year. There are some elements of the car which do feel different and obviously with the upgrade but it’s just simply just have a little bit more downforce on the car. But the characteristics of the car are very, very similar to what we had earlier on in the year and so we need to… for the future, for the next year’s car, you need to take a lot of these different things off and change them for sure. It’s definitely not the car that… characteristic-wise the car that’s going to be able to beat the Red Bull just yet. And so we’ve got to work on that. For example, it was very bumpy, this track, and I think everyone was struggling but our car was very stiff. But I think we were all struggling with the stiffness of our cars. But today was bumpy. That’s the one that thing that… I would say that’s something I dislike most about this generation of cars, right? Back in the day was smooth down the straight.”

Working on weaknesses also means, and perhaps above all, considering one’s position in relation to the competition. The main one at the moment, Fernando Alonso. Hamilton spoke about the differences compared to the Aston Martin and also the Red Bull of Verstappen.

“Low speed, rear end. His rear end… I mean, I got to experience being behind Max and his rear is very strong. His rear end doesn’t move and he pulls ten car lengths probably on me just coming out of the corners. I think Fernando’s very, very strong on the brakes, and particularly very quick through Turn 10 and Turn 2. Those places, he was taking huge chunks out of me.”

Regarding Red Bull, the distance from the other teams is undeniable. A distance that does not translate into frustration but into a desire to continue to improve and to get back to having constant battles on the track. The driver went on to say:

“It’s not a frustration anymore, if it ever was. It’s… you know how it is, and you know what you’re faced with, and there’s nothing I can do about their amazing performance. It’s likely that they will win every race, moving forwards, this year, unless the Astons and us put a lot more performance on the cars, or their car doesn’t finish. It’s not easy with the regulations to find the amount of performance that they have, advantage-wise. They’ve got to be 30 points upon us in certain points through the lap and we’ve got some work to do. But it’s not that it’s frustrating, I just, as I said, look forward to… I’m happy to firstly be back in the mix and I’m just hoping at some stage we can have it all a little bit more level so we can get back to some of the good races we had back in 2021. And to have all three of us in a super-tight battle would be sick.”