Following their underwhelming performance at the Japanese Grand Prix, where they operated the fourth-quickest car, Mercedes is well aware of the current distance between themselves and leading team, Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton, who has been actively urging the Mercedes team to completely rethink their design strategy, admits that the sheer breadth of the gap that needs to be closed before the commencement of the 2024 season is overwhelming.
“I have no idea where the car is going to be next year, but we’re a long, long way away,” he confessed to Sky.
“We’ve got to hope for the next six months to be the greatest six months of development that we’ve ever had to close that gap and to be really banging on the door.”
While the deficit appears large, Hamilton points to the example of McLaren, which altered its car approach and has now risen as the main competition for Red Bull, as evidence of what Mercedes can achieve.
“The evidence is there at McLaren, and we can’t turn a blind eye to that – to look at what they’ve done and go in that direction,” Hamilton stressed. “That is the direction.”
Optimistic about his team’s potential, Hamilton expressed, “But I truly believe my team can do it, and we’ve always been great at putting downforce on the car. It’s just that, with the way our car currently works, adding downforce doesn’t work, it just makes it bounce more.”
Hamilton remains hopeful that a strategic shift in philosophy will help restore the team’s performance to its deserved level, conveying his absolute faith in the team and acknowledging the implications of decisions made in this critical time frame.
Mercedes had started making headway with its W13 car twelve months ago, earning a victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix. However, that win led the team to mistakenly believe they had completely grasped the suitable development path, causing them to continue in the same direction for 2023.
They soon found out from a decision revolving around an excessively high ride-height aero platform that this was a mistake which hindered the hoped-for progress.
Hamilton admits that striving for good points positions is challenging at the moment but asserts its importance in contributing to the team’s constructers’ championship efforts.
“I’m giving absolutely everything, but it’s tough on weekends like this, particularly where the car is such a handful,” he shared.
Reflecting on the current situation, he concluded, “basically, it’s the exact same as last year. Feeling-wise, the car felt just the same as last year. It’s bouncing and sliding, so that’s tough given how much work we’ve done to progress and we’re not any closer to the front, at least here.”