‘We haven’t improved’: Lewis Hamilton discouraged as car falls far short of F1 pace again | Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton admitted Mercedes failed to improve their car in the first five races of the season after finishing sixth at the Miami Grand Prix. The seven-time world champion has admitted they are not moving forward with a car which his team principal, Toto Wolff, has admitted to be late and difficult to drive and understand, as they plan to retire the design concept next year.

Max Verstappen won the race for Red Bull, having passed Charles Leclerc for the lead on lap nine and then delivering a controlled and dominant ride to the flag. It was a consummate display from the Dutchman with Ferrari simply unable to keep up with their pace. In doing so, he gets closer to 19 points behind Leclerc in the championship.

Mercedes had made their first major improvements of the season in Miami and hoped to at least take the incremental steps needed to extract more from their car, which still suffers from the violent porpoising on the straights that has prevented them from unlocking its potential after five races. Hamilton enjoyed improved qualifying performance – taking sixth place – and he and team-mate George Russell finished sixth and fifth in the race respectively.

However, they remain nearly a second behind the leaders and the hoped-for improvement had not been discovered in Miami.

“Unfortunately we are at the same speed as in the first race,” said Hamilton. “We haven’t improved in those five races but I’m hopeful we have to keep trying and keep working hard.”

The British driver, used to fighting for victories and the title, has fought a completely different battle this season. His car is third fastest at best, but Hamilton has often found himself in a midfield battle he has rarely had to endure throughout his career. A challenge he is taking up as a long season of 18 additional races is coming up.

“It’s still racing, just a different perspective, a different point of view,” he said. “You want to try to move forward, but it’s difficult when you’re not moving forward. It’s what it is but it’s an experience for sure.

Mercedes believe this year’s car still has the potential to get good and that, if they work out their issues, it could still be very quick, although Hamilton has already nixed his title shots. In Miami, their task was once again at large with its unpredictable nature on display. Russell had been quickest in second practice but then said he had no confidence in the same car in qualifying, managing only 12th. Wolff admitted that even after five races, mastering the car was still a dark art and one he described as clearly frustrated.

Lewis Hamilton's car is still suffering from violent porpoises on the straights which have prevented Mercedes from unleashing its potential.
Lewis Hamilton’s car is still suffering from violent porpoises on the straights which have prevented Mercedes from unleashing its potential. Photography: Eleanor Hoad/Shutterstock

“There’s potential in the car and it’s fast but we just don’t understand how to unlock that potential.” he said. “It’s a car that’s super tough to drive, diving in and out of the performance window – more out than in – and dissecting the data with a scalpel is a painful process.

“The data sometimes doesn’t show what drivers are telling us and suddenly they have their hands full with a car that isn’t fun, comfortable or predictable to drive.”

With the new regulations introduced this year, a variety of different concepts across the grid have been introduced by teams and some such as leaders Ferrari and Red Bull have successfully addressed the porpoising problem with their models. With decisions on the design path for next year’s cars to be made in the near future, Mercedes is approaching a critical moment to figure out how it chooses to move forward in 2023. In Miami, Wolff pointed to the next round in Barcelona as a key moment. .

“We stuck with the current concept, we’re true to the current concept, we don’t look at the lady next door to see if we like her more,” he said. “Before making the decision to move on to another concept, we need to understand where this one went wrong. What’s the good and what’s the bad. I would ask for an answer after Barcelona and then we have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves: “Are we wrong or not?”

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