Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Hamilton: Mercedes had its “most difficult” winter

2019 F1 season

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Rules changes for the 2019 F1 season made last winter the “most difficult” build-up to a new championship yet for world champions Mercedes, according to Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes hasn’t failed to win a championship since the V6 hybrid turbo rules were introduced in 2014. But new aerodynamic regulations for this year presents a challenge to their supremacy, Hamilton believes.

“It’s been a difficult winter for the guys back at the factory,” he said. “I could see it and I’ve heard from the guys, probably the most difficult one particularly with the rule change once again.

“But if anyone can do it, I truly believe it’s my guys. We are the only team to have won a championship in a cross over of a rules situation.”

Ferrari impressed many with their testing times last week but Hamilton isn’t ruling out a challenge to Mercedes coming from elsewhere.

“I’m competing with everyone. I don’t know who’s going to be quickest. I think you can’t say just Ferrari.

“I don’t know where the Red Bulls are. I’m hopeful that there’s going to be more teams involved. But who knows what people are going to bring up when we get to the first race.

“Right now we’re competing against our past selves as a team. We’re really trying to raise the bar in all those areas. All the engineers back in the factory are raising the bar.

“It’s been super-impressive to see the atmosphere within the team after all these years of success that we’ve had. To see that the hunger is still there. To see the drive is still there. No one’s fazing out. No one’s back off. Everyone is pushing full steam ahead.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 25 comments on “Hamilton: Mercedes had its “most difficult” winter”

    1. All this doom and gloom. I fear for Mercedes in F1. Just hoping they can “do a Brawn” this year and find some kind of advantage over the rest of the pack :-/

      1. Mercedes ALWAYS play down there chances and speak up the opposition – personally would be good to see them start with a deficit – else we in for another year of the Lewis Hamilton show – even he has got bored of it.

        1. I think there was a slight degree of sarcasm in Malice’s comment…

          1. A degree of Malice perhaps ?

        2. They started with a deficit in 2017 and 18

    2. From what I’ve read the rule change was pushed by Mercedes and benefits them most. The RedBull had to be contained since it already won races with a Renault power unit. So their aero advantage had to go. Maybe I am misinformed or its the Lewis show again.

      1. The change was recommended by the F1 technical department led by Ross Brawn. It was the result of testing to see what aero changes would make it easier for cars to follow one another without their tires going off so quickly.

        If anything, the change appears to disadvantage Mercedes a bit. Several analysts (Scarbs, Gary Anderson, Mark Hughes) have noted that Mercedes run the lowest rake and that the downforce lost on the front of the car has made their low rake approach less effective. I’m just regurgitating what they said, you can read their reasoning for yourself:

        https://www.motorsportmagazine.com/opinion/f1/mph-why-ferraris-top-after-f1-test-1
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPfuYZpMyls

        They all said something else similar: no need to panic for Mercedes, it’s too early to tell how they’ll show up at Melbourne.

        1. @lunaslide Which begs the question why they didn’t change the design philosophy. Hamilton has been the difference and won the last two championships for them as Ferrari (and sometimes Red Bull) caught up and overtook them at a lot of tracks. That may not be enough this year – it probably shouldn’t be. Staying still while others evolve isn’t an effective long-term option.

          1. @david-br It’s an enormous gamble to shift the entire aero philosophy, especially with a car that has been good enough to win the championship 5 years running. Even if it isn’t the best, they’ve been able to adapt to several changes using the long wheelbase design (which limits the degree of rake that is feasible). I suspect it is a case of “Better the devil you know.” Plus, they do have Hamilton to fall back on and he has shown that he can make the difference even when the car isn’t the best.

            When you’ve got little to nothing to lose on a radical change, you get the Alfa C38. But Merc has had a good thing going and that is hard to ditch for what most teams have described as a small change. The change might have been bigger than they anticipated now that the CFD is being tested against reality.

            1. You’re right of course about the logic of not risking too much when they can at least count on being up near the front most races. But it does seem to make it near inevitable they’re going to be passed at some point beyond Hamilton’s ability to make up the gap.

      2. Indeed. As always in F1 rule changes are to stop domination and shake up the grid, it doesn’t matter what they say it’s for.

        Red Bull say that it hurt them more than anything as their strength is aero, but seems to have had the desired effect to hurt Mercedes with the reduced front wing complexity benefiting raked cars more like @lunaslide has well pointed out.

    3. If Mercedes start losing, watch how quickly they leave.

      1. I don’t think they’re in it for the long haul either. I always thought their whole objective was to come, see and conquer before there was any downfall in form. They’re aren’t going to compete for a decade without winning anything like Ferrari.

        1. @todfod I also believe this to be true. I think I read somewhere that, in marketing payback terms (you can tell this isn’t my line of expertise), it is pointless to stay in F1 for more than a decade if you’ve won everything multiple times. I can’t tell you where I read that either, so my comment is a complete shambles, probably.

    4. This sounds worse than Williams, let’s hope they can get it together.

      1. someone quick, #bless them

    5. And some people still think global warming is a myth

    6. Don’t they do this literally every year? Does anyone actually believe Mercedes when they say this stuff anymore? Mercedes really do seem to have this bizarre need to paint themselves as the underdog when they’re literally anything but.

      1. @rocketpanda people need to realise Mercedes have been losing ground to Ferrari for quite a bit of time now. Ferrari did an excellent job from 2016 to 2017, and their 2018 car was equal (or very close, that’s another discussion) to the Mercedes. They dominated the three first years of the hybrid area easily but the engine advantage is gone now and from the testing it appears the Reds have done a better job than them.

    7. This is no bluster or pretence. Mercedes are in serious trouble and definitely on the back foot. They are certainly behind Ferrari and more likely RedBull. The Honda engine will be the determinant factor with RedBull.

      The use of the C4 compound early in the first test is also an indicator. Generally, Mercedes are so confident they do not use the softer compounds until much later in the testing season.

      I predict a very difficult season for them ahead, and would go as far as predicting a Ferrari /Vettel WCC/WDC.

      1. @kbdavies

        I agree that Mercedes are in trouble. There were early signs of frustration from Toto even before the unveiling about how the new regulations were specifically aimed at reducing Mercedes’ advantage. At the time of the unveiling as well, I saw the Mercedes car, and realised that it would take a fundamental change in the philosophy of their car to adopt the high rake and raised sidepod route. With their current philosophy, they’ll have to work doubly hard to create that outwash and generate the front downforce levels of the Ferrari and Red Bull.

        I wouldn’t go ahead and say Vettel and Ferrari will be WDC and WCC yet.. after all Vettel can throw away a title with great efficiency, and no one drops a ball like Ferrari. But for now.. I would have to say it’s advantage team red.

        1. @kbdavies @todfod – the thing is, they’ve cried “wolf!” (or is it “Wolff!”?) for so long that it’s next to impossible for many of us fans to take these statements at face value, so we’d have to wait for at least the initial fly-aways to know if they are indeed on the backfoot.

          It’s similar to the RB camp’s statements about Honda – words are all well and good, but until they show good on-track performance without engine failures for at least 5 races, it is nothing but lip service.

          1. @phylyp

            Yeah. I agree. Mercedes claimed to be fearing Mclaren, Renault and Haas in previous pre season tests, so it’s hard to take them seriously. But the fact that they’ve come up with a B spec car (new front wing, New barge boards, New nose and new engine cover) on day 5 of testing is definitely worrying. I would be surprised if they genuinely are still sandbagging.

            but until they show good on-track performance without engine failures for at least 5 races, it is nothing but lip service.

            I’m ready to put a bit of money that one Honda engine will go bam at the first race weekend itself.

            1. Richard Reichle
              27th February 2019, 0:17

              The updated aero was already in the pipeline NO WAY they could design build and CFD/Windtunnel verify that many new components in the time they had this may have been planned for intro in Australia but it was definitely not a result of the first 4 days of testing

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