Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time world champion, is set to make a significant pit stop at the Mercedes headquarters in Brackley this week. His mission? To delve into the intricate world of Formula 1 engineering, scrutinizing the 2024 W15 car in the wind tunnel. However, his visit isn’t solely for admiration; it’s also an opportunity to gauge whether the engineers and designers have heeded his invaluable feedback on the car’s development.
In the recent Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session, Hamilton found himself trailing the race leader, Max Verstappen, by a staggering second. It was a stark reminder of the challenges he encountered throughout the 2022 season with the W13 car and the ongoing struggles faced with this year’s W14.
Hamilton has been vocal about his belief that Mercedes deviated from the optimal design path, a departure from the philosophy that underpinned the W13. These differences are stark when compared to Red Bull’s RB19.
Speaking candidly about his Saturday qualifying woes, Hamilton shared his thoughts with the BBC, stating, “The root cause of the problem with the car is clear.”
Yet, Hamilton seems to harbor concerns that his insights and concerns may not be fully embraced by the Mercedes design team. He emphasized, “They need to take it seriously.”
“It didn’t feel that shocking today.
“It was just unfortunately slow. I just have a huge lack of rear downforce so you are fighting the rear on a knife edge, you are right on the limit, and that means your [tyre] temperatures are going up and you’re losing grip through thermal deg [degradation] through the lap.
“An easy one second ahead of us for him [Verstappen]. I’ve had cars like that before and I know what it feels like and it’s pretty special when you drive a lap with a car with that sort of balance around here. So I am pushing and hoping for my team to build me that for next year.”
Mercedes trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin, however, provides reassurance. He asserts that Mercedes isn’t merely paying lip service to their star driver’s feedback; they’re committed to implementing necessary changes. Shovlin unveiled, “We’re not clinging to the old concept we had before.”
“I know what the problem is; it’s just getting the guys to make the changes. I try to argue my point but it is not my job to design the car.
“I am hopeful they do the job but it is going to take real changes real quick.”
Hamilton’s visit to the Mercedes HQ is a testament to the collaborative spirit that fuels Formula 1. It exemplifies the synergy between driver and team, as they strive for excellence and the pursuit of the perfect racing machine. As the 2024 W15 takes shape, all eyes are on Brackley, eager to witness the evolution of Mercedes’ engineering prowess under Hamilton’s watchful gaze.
“Lewis and George [Russell] together are always giving us feedback on where the weaknesses are, and while they might be identifying different causes we know fundamentally their car doesn’t have enough stability.
“We know they don’t have the confidence to throw it into a high-speed corner here and know that the rear’s not going to slide more than they want and be a bit of a challenge.
“So you can build a clear picture of where you need to develop and we are certainly not clinging on to any concepts we had before.
“We are very open-minded and we have had a very chastening couple of years, and we are a team working very hard to try to get back to the front.”