Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku Street Circuit, 2022

Hamilton’s recent deficit to Russell is due to ‘set-up experiments’, says Wolff

2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has not been able to match the pace of team mate George Russell over the last three races due to experiments Mercedes have performed on their cars, according to team principal Toto Wolff.

Mercedes have been trying to solve persistent porpoising on their car which has severely compromised their performance. With no opportunity to test their car between races, the team has to try new parts and set-ups during practice sessions.

Russell, who joined Mercedes from Williams at the start of the year, out-qualified Hamilton for the third weekend in a row today. Wolff said this has been influenced by the drivers running different parts or set-ups on their cars as they try to solve their problems.

“I think it’s too early to try to identify a pattern because I’m very close to it and I see that one session one is faster and the next session the other one is faster,” said Wolff. “Because the car is on a knife’s edge if you put a foot wrong in terms of experiments on the car, which need to be done in order for us to actually learn how to perform, where to put the car, there’s two or three tenths immediately between them.

“The last three races these experiments have gone wrong with Lewis and not with George.”

Hamilton’s car is in a different specification again this weekend, said Wolff. “Lewis has been trying some experimental parts of the car. There was a different floor solution on his car that didn’t work.

“The car was porpoising more and bottoming out to a degree that it became dangerous and couldn’t extract the performance. So, yes, it was a different spec.”

Hamilton said yesterday “we tried something experimental on my car and it didn’t feel that great to be honest.”

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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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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36 comments on “Hamilton’s recent deficit to Russell is due to ‘set-up experiments’, says Wolff”

  1. Toto… it’s the same reason everytime. It appears to be obvious but at this point, you need to find the best setup on both cars. I feel bad for Hamilton because his car has the most porpoising, and that appears to be already health dangerous. But, maybe he is on purpose “sacrificing”. Russell also but I feel more for Hamilton since he is 37 and his car seems to have more bouncing than Russell’s consistently.

    1. @krichelle I agree about them finding best setups for both, but given GR’s comments about the porpoising as well, I’m not convinced it is worse for LH. Of course I could be wrong but I am not convinced this ‘experiment’ talk is an honest assessment of the situation, but rather a way to cover off LH lagging. Not saying they aren’t experimenting but I just think that by now there can’t be a lot of experimentation left within this dog, so LH should be using what GR is using so they can at least try to maximize their results. Or put another way, isn’t it time LH gets the same setups so he can use his experience and talent to really stretch the car and see what it can do? Or at least confirm why GR is doing better on average?

      1. Disagree. As long as the car behaves as bad, you have to try the experiments, to get a better understanding and find the right direction. And it makes perfect sense to do this with the more experienced driver.

      2. @robbie – The car is terrible, sacrifices will need to be made to either fix or forget. They probably have written off this year or possibly close? Who knows? But irrespective of who is doing better of the two drivers they are light years away from the front which is the only thing that matters.

      3. If they had an even half decent car maybe. According to some reports I’ve read, the car doesn’t behave as expected when they change the set-up, which would explain why they have to keep “experimenting” with different set-up changes. This doesn’t bode well for them as they should be well into designing next years car but you can’t build off of a car you don’t understand or can’t get to behave. It almost reminds be of Williams trying to get the walrus nose to work, except that there is no indication of just what is wrong with the car….zero sidepods maybe?

        1. Roman that is a valid point. I hear you folks and it just feels to me like what else can they try that they haven’t already? I just don’t see how there is some secret they’re about to unlock with this design, so why not at this point just get LH up there with GR? Have the more experienced driver confirm what GR is doing and maybe build on that with his talent and experience. Or even at the same time have GR confirm that LH’s experiments (his side of the garage) are not working and why.

      4. @robbie You’re not convinced but you’ve no evidence to contradict what Wolff has stated and, indeed, both drivers have confirmed throughout the season that they’ve been trying out different components and setups to each other. Compare that to Red Bull where Max for the first time is getting outqualified by Perez, very surprisingly I have to say. He’s been genuinely faster around Monaco and now Baku.

        1. @david-br As I said above to krichelle I’m not convinced the porpoising is worse for LH. I think it is just as bad for GR. I’m also less convinced than before that LH lagging is because of him doing more experimenting, and it just seems strange to me that if that is the case and he is always lagging behind GR for it, perhaps it is time they need to take a different tack. They certainly don’t seem to be learning much but sure, trying different things on each car makes sense in their state…or any teams’ state really. Let’s see them give LH some setups to get him ahead of GR for a change and I’m sure they can learn from that too.

          Not sure what this has to do with Max and Checo as I’m sure there is much less experimenting going on at RBR. It is wonderful for Checo to be doing this well (Monaco being an outlier as we have heard on several teams or drivers behalf) but I’m confident he is not suddenly at Max’s level, but hey, push Max? I’m all for that. There is constant development going on at RBR too and if right now Max is a bit less happy with his setups or what have you, well the resources are there for them to sort that. All good. I have utter confidence that Max is special and like I say I am thrilled for Checo too, and am really enjoying this reinforcement of the fact that I have promoted all along which is that Checo has the same equipment and opportunity on the team that Max does.

          1. Yes, looks like he does, I thought that too ofc, but I’m just very surprised perez at his age can compete with a generational talent at some races, in that case I don’t see why perez has been overlooked by top teams till this late in his career!

          2. Let ‘s cut to the chase.
            The cars are virtually identical and are having the same issues.
            Several possible reasons why LH is being outperformed by GR :
            – LH’s age has caught up with him and his skills are dwindling
            – He is somewhat overrated – a great driver but maybe the car was more the reason for his WDC’s than his skills
            -GR is simply better

            or the fact that he can’t adapt to the car as well as GR due to the latter’s having to deal with a
            GR is a better racer – maybe he always was.

  2. Well i’m not going to say told you so, but…

    Also you have to figure if one driver is gathering data on experimental parts, that’s less time for that driver to fine tune the setup for qualifying and racing.

    1. You don’t have to say that, because both drivers have been using experimental setups:

      due to experiments Mercedes have performed on their cars, according to team principal Toto Wolff.

      You were always saying they were using only Lewis as the guinea pig, which is clearly not true according to Toto.

  3. Mercedes are so far away from where they should be that it makes sense to keep trying diffferent things.

    1. It does, but the different things continue to fail and to me it seems they’re starting to flog a dead horse. Time to give LH GR’s setups and let GR experiment so they can confirm some things.

      1. @robbie – solves nothing doing that.

  4. another article where some armchair experts will entertain us with their wisdom.

    1. I luv chicken
      11th June 2022, 20:27

      I’ve tried different experiments on my armchair, and point out that everything has worked out just fine. Time for the square heads to dump that car. Best part: here comes Hamilton on a real good lap, with a tow, and at the line….. ooooh he’s 1.5 seconds off.

      1. Not sure what you expected with the gap we’ve seen all quali at this track, and a relatively long lap too, the tow put him ahead of russell in q2 in that moment where hamilton was at elimination risk, was all they could’ve gone for.

  5. Here we go again.

  6. armchair expert #4338 here: Which driver is the “#1”??? I have been knocking Russell as a Brit media darling and the anti-Lewis bias is obvious….BUT, why is the veteran (and multi-time World Champion in case you forgot…) and most probable contender being used as a development driver?

    1. #1 obviously is Masis paperchamp, who currently seems pretty anoyed to constantly get beaten by his wingman.

      1. Super Max! Yo Hé, Yo Hó !

    2. Because he’s the senior and more experienced driver so according to former drivers, including Hill & Herbert, the responsibility for finding the fix falls mostly to Lewis.

    3. José Lopes da Silva
      13th June 2022, 22:14

      Michael Schumacher spending days and nights at Fiorano would not have the time to read this comment.

  7. And Russel’s set up is spot on every single time, right? How convenient, and very nice PR work.

    1. It’s embarrassing at this point. Every damn race we’ve got Toto trying to minimize the damage to Lewis’ reputation for once again being blitzed by Georgie boy.

      The fan-bees will eat it up, but everyone else, including normal Lewis fans gotta feel awkward listening to Toto speak this way

      1. The thing is their fanbase is blaming George for not taking the responsibility of taking these “experimental set up” changes. The poor guy was even berated for not giving a tow to Lewis in Q3 because apparently they dont the rule that has been going on for last 8 years of Mercedes alternating on who goes first.

      2. Yeah, it is embarrassing the way drivers are treated differently, and the level of discussion of them (not just HAM/RUS, but VER/PER apparently too, and slating of SAI or LEC) to the point that I largely stopped looking at comments on the site as they are so low quality, of the sort that are more easily found on the rest of the internet.

  8. Electroball76
    11th June 2022, 20:40

    The world’s best driver, in F1’s greatest team, gets the slower car. Every week. Just through bad luck. Sounds legit.

  9. Toto is a bad liar.

  10. Of course they work on different set-ups and bring development parts to one car first whilst testing those.
    All teams (except Haas) will do that.

    Just Mercedes (based on the screaming of the fans) need to make it a PR story.

    PS I hope Mercedes development is a bit better than constantly bringing test parts which prove to be 0.3s slower :P

  11. This arm-chair hack can see the bouncing and super-stiff suspension on the Mercedes and compare it to the other cars. It looks like a go-cart with floppy body-work and it isn’t working.
    How is it that Wolff was touting, around 4 races ago, that they had a bead on the problem and loads of data to design a solution. Still waiting.
    Presently we are a third of the way through the season and it looks like they are still stumbling in the dark. At some point the budget cap is going to bite and any further development will stop and that shouldn’t be too far away.
    If George and Lewis think it is rough now, wait till they get to Montreal or COTA. George’s prediction of a bounce related incident would be more likely on those tracks.

  12. The more the lady does protest the more Hams paper titles reveal themselves…

  13. Perhaps his feedback from a development standpoint is not particularly helpful?

  14. Why do these debates always degenerate into a Lewis is useless, paper champion, never could drive, a sham, below average driver argument. Its as though some people are always waiting for their moment of opportunity. Cant accept that Lewis has most poles most wins equal championships with shumacher. And yea its because of the car. Its alwaya been about the car in F1. This is not a spec series. Its a team sport. Lewis more often than not has beaten his teammates. This year the car is horrendous obviously they are working together to gain performance. They are trying everything.no point versing eachother if they not in the front.

  15. At what point do they say enough, lets move this philosophy is not worth it anymore, we can already look at the successful designs of RedBull and Ferrari lets think like them and build on it.

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