Mercedes up to 1.5s per lap slower than Red Bull in F1 race trim

Mercedes endured a torrid 2022 campaign with a car that was crippled by porpoising, but it was confident of unearthing much more potential from an evolution of the same concept.

Yet despite eradicating the dreaded bouncing, Mercedes discovered in Bahrain’s season opener that it had not made the progress it had hoped.

The Brackley outfit ended up as the fourth-fastest team in the race behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin as Hamilton and team-mate George Russell finished a distant fifth and seventh respectively.

It prompted Mercedes to release an open letter, published on Saturday, which said it felt the same pain as its followers – and was not shying away from how much work it now faces to recover.

PLUS: Why Mercedes is fronting up to its F1 mistakes too much

When asked in Jeddah ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix to explain where Mercedes’ deficit is, Hamilton said: «Last year we were very draggy, and we were struggling not only on the straights, but we had to take a much bigger wing and we were equalling if not losing in the corners as well.

«This year it’s mostly through the corners. Down the streets we’re quick, but on exits these guys have a lot of rear end through the majority of the corners.

«So, I think in the race [Red Bull] weren’t pushing and so I think they’re a lot quicker than they even seemed. We have it as them being a second and a half faster in the race per lap, or something like that.

«We need all these Red Bulls not to finish the race, the Ferraris not to finish the race, maybe now the Aston Martins not to finish the race, for us to be winning at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we can’t catch them up.»

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W14

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W14

Photo by: Erik Junius

After the race in Bahrain, Hamilton said the team didn’t listen to some of his concerns on the car development.

And while he explained on Thursday that it «wasn’t necessarily the best choice of words» he did feel like Mercedes wouldn’t be able to close the gap once he had seen the 2023 car’s concept still looked vastly different compared to the competition.

«In hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily the best choice of words,» he reflected. «But of course, there are times where you’re not in agreement with certain team members.

«But what’s important is that we continue to communicate, we continue to pull together, I still have 100% belief in this team.»

On Mercedes sticking to its unique ‘zeropod’ concept, he added: «I knew that we weren’t in the right place when you saw the car for the first time.

«It looked still so much different to those of our competitors and it’s always nerve-racking in that moment.»

The Bahrain performance prompted team boss Toto Wolff to proclaim that Mercedes now had to radically change design concept for it to return to winning ways and Hamilton agreed that «bold decisions» would need to be made.

«We’ve seen the proof is in the pudding and we’ve seen where the performance is and how people are extracting the performance,» Hamilton explained.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

«We’ve got to now start making some bold decisions, some big moves in order to close the gap to these guys.

«[Red Bull] will run away with it most likely this year, unless Ferrari can probably stop them, but hopefully at some point during the year we’re hopeful we might be able to close the gap.

«At that point, it’ll be probably too late in terms of fighting for a championship, but we could still turn some heads.»

When asked if those decisions had already been made in the wake of a disappointing start, he said: «I think we’re in the process of it, yes.»

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