Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes ‘didn’t listen’ to his concerns about 2023 car
Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes “didn’t listen” to him over the development of their 2023 Formula 1 car.
The seven-time champion finished fifth in the season-opening Bahrain GP as the team made another poor start.
“Last year, there were things I told them. I said the issues that are with the car,” said the 38-year-old Briton.
“I’ve driven so many cars in my life. I know what a car needs. I know what a car doesn’t need. I think it’s really about accountability.”
Hamilton, who was talking to the latest edition of BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chequered Flag podcast, said he still believed Mercedes could return to the front at some point.
“It’s about owning up and saying, ‘Yeah, you know what? We didn’t listen to you. It’s not where it needs to be and we’ve got to work’,” he said.
“We’ve got to look into the balance through the corners, look at all the weak points, and just huddle up as a team. That’s what we do.”
“We’re still [multiple] world champions, you know? Just haven’t got it right this time. Didn’t get it right last year. But that doesn’t mean we can’t get it right moving forwards.”
Hamilton’s remarks came as team principal Toto Wolff admitted Mercedes had made a mistake in continuing to pursue their car philosophy after a difficult 2022.
Most of the grid have followed the design philosophy pioneered by Red Bull last year as Verstappen scored one of the most dominant championship victories ever.
Aston Martin have done so with great effect to start the season with the second-fastest race car after finishing seventh in the championship last year.
Mercedes, by contrast, have stuck with their own unique approach, which features much narrower bodywork beside the driver in what has become known as a “zero-sidepod” concept.
Wolff admitted in Bahrain that the team would have to change tack if they were to return to the front.
Mercedes have spent the start of this week in meetings looking at the best approach to improve the performance of their car.
Wolff said: “This is not a matter of finding 0.3secs and polishing the car up. This is a matter of serious performance we need to find to put us back in a position to fight for race wins and championships.
“We have lost a year in development. In order to have a steeper development curve, you just need to take these decisions.
“Aston Martin took that decision and they came back strong. If we start from our base, maybe we can come back strong and chase the Red Bulls. That’s the ambition.”
Mercedes are planning to bring a revised design with bigger sidepods – more in the direction of the Red Bull than the shrunken bodywork on the Mercedes – for the San Marino Grand Prix in early May, or possibly the Miami Grand Prix which precedes it if the parts can be ready in time.
But they are limited in the extent of modifications they can make this year, and substantial philosophical changes will have to wait until next year.
‘We are not going to throw in white towel’ – Wolff
One example is that Mercedes sit their drivers further forward than Red Bull. This approach enabled them to combine the mandatory side-impact structures with an aerodynamic airflow-shaping element which led to their so-called ‘zero-sidepod’ approach.
Red Bull’s car has wider bodywork beside the driver, but this has a pronounced undercut that channels air to the rear of the car to increase downforce by affecting the flow along the floor edge and over the diffuser at the back.
Wolff has dismissed suggestions Hamilton could change his mind about staying with the team beyond the end of his contract this season as a result of their lack of performance.
“Lewis is an integral part of the team, picking the team up and we are all sticking together and I don’t think that is going to change just because we had a start that was really bad,” Wolff said.
“We have won eight constructors’ championships and six drivers’ championships with him and that relationship holds.
“It would be much too easy to lose a driver and throw in the white towel. We are not doing that.
“On the contrary, we just need to really dig deep and deeper than we have ever done and provide both drivers with a car they are able to fight with.
“They are doing everything they can with the car but if the thing just slides through the corners and they have to correct, you just almost feel for them.” – bbc.com