Hamilton: W14 has “levelled up pretty much everywhere” at COTA as he starts P3 for F1 US GP

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The Mercedes driver consistently showed a good pace throughout FP1 and Qualifying, even signing the fastest time in Q1. Ultimately, his best effort in the final grid-setting segment was only enough for P3, sharing the second row with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

Hamilton was extremely pleased with his positive qualifying performance, which cheered him up after a streak of starting results that had left the seven times World Champion frustrated with his own performances:

“Yeah, good session for us. Really grateful for the improvements that the team have made with the car. Everyone’s worked so hard to bring some upgrades and for us to be this close to McLaren and Ferrari and even the Red Bulls.

“I think it’s a showing of just how hard everyone’s worked. The car, it feels almost the same. It’s just levelled up pretty much everywhere.”

A new floor was introduced for the Texas weekend by Mercedes, with the German team stating that rather than being an improvement for the W14, it was brought to Austin in order to have a better understanding of the concept for the 2024 challenger.

Asked to expand on the topic of the upgrades freshly introduced, he was wary about the impact the floor might have on next year, but reckoned the importance it had in his Qualifying performance:

“I don’t know really if it’s a signifier of anything for next year but, as we continue to experiment, we get more and more knowledge of where we’re going, and where we are routing the flow of the car. The floor is not a huge amount different.”

Photo credit: Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team

The British driver even went as far as to single it out among all the other updates introduced by Mercedes ever since the new regulations were introduced in 2022:

“There’s always hype with someone’s upgrade but the rest of the car is exactly the same. And there’s lots and lots of areas in which we can improve, but this is an improvement.

“This is one of the first upgrades that I’ve actually felt over the last two years. So that’s a positive, and we just need two or three times of this step to put us in super competitive mode, which I believe the guys can do.”

The better balance found with the new introduction might assist Hamilton in the quest for his first win since the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP. However, there isn’t much information on actual race pace due to the Sprint format of the weekend, where the drivers only have one hour of practice before the two sessions of qualifying and races.

The lack of practice, coupled with championship winning Red Bull drivers not starting from the front row, allows Hamilton to hope for a closer fight for the win:

“Too early to say. None of us have done any long running. So I have no idea. Maybe with the Red Bull not in the top three, maybe that makes it a better, closer battle maybe, because they’re often quite a bit ahead and just disappear into the distance. So hopefully the three of us [Leclerc, Norris and Hamilton] can have a tight battle.”

Over the span of the last races, Hamilton ‘s gap to Sergio Perez, second in the drivers’ standings, has been reduced to only thirty points, with twenty eight over Ferrari in third for the constructors’s standings.

After an admittedly tough 2022 for both him and his new teammate George Russell, where he had ended the season in sixth, the Brit admits it’s extremely encouraging to be able to fight for the top 3 spots in both championships:

“All of us are pushing to finish first. So I think it will be just a showing of resilience, really, and strength, and depth from our team.

“I think we had a difficult year last year. And even with the start to this year, we didn’t expect to be where we are. So to be fighting for second in the Constructors and trying to hold that position to these two guys…

“I don’t know whether or not we’ll catch Sergio but given the difference of our cars throughout the season, I’m really proud of the work that we’ve done,” he concluded.