Q&A: Hamilton keeps faith in “creative” Mercedes – and welcomes black livery’s return

2023 F1 season

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Lewis Hamilton’s 16th season in Formula 1 last year was a dispiriting campaign which saw him go without a victory for the first time in his career.

But speaking to media including RaceFans during the launch of Mercedes’ new W14 last week the driver who is seeking a record-breaking eighth world championship sounded re-energised and ready for another fight. Here are selected highlights of what he had to say.

Q: It’s your 17th season in Formula 1, you’ve achieved more than many people thought was even possible in the sport. Do you still feel the level of excitement and passion for F1 like you did in the first season?

Hamilton: “Definitely. I wouldn’t say that’s been the case like every single season. But as I said, I had this great break and I can’t remember the last time I felt as excited to get in the car to to even test.

2023 Mercedes W14 - Lewis Hamilton colours
Gallery: Mercedes present new W14 F1 car for 2023 season
“I’ve done two test days already before this day, which I never do. Tyre tests, at that. So I’m excited, I feel reinvigorated, really excited to work with the team. It’s been great to see just how focussed everybody is, how pumped everyone is.

“Obviously I saw the car in the wind tunnel in December. And then this week is the most exciting week when you see all these pieces come together and then the car just looks streamlined. You can see it’s an evolution. When you have the meeting and the 40, 50 engineers take you through what they’ve done, why they’ve done it, and what we’re hoping to get from that, it’s like Christmas. You’re just waiting to be able open your present and get in.

“And it’s another season. Physically I feel great, I’ve very much focussed on trying to raise the bar in that area. And it’s going to be a challenge, and that’s what I live for.”

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Q: Looking at last year, how have the goals changed? Is it a bit more realistic this year? And will that have any bearing in your on your future and how you move forward if you’re not back up fighting with Red Bull again?

Hamilton accepts Mercedes “perhaps won’t be first out of the gate”
Hamilton: “I’ve said it over and over again, but this is family to me. So it’s no coincidence that we’ve won world championships in the past. You don’t all of a sudden just lose the ability to be able to do so.

“I have the utmost confidence in all the people I’ve been around. The place is expanding all the time. The factory is getting bigger, there’s more and more departments and more people joining all the time. So staying on top of that is always tough.

“But when I sit in the office that I’ve been coming to for now the 11th year and we all say ‘jeez, it’s been a long, long time’, but we’re all still excited to work together. It doesn’t feel old, it still feels fresh.

“I think last year, I was boyish because they were boyish. They knew we had big upgrades coming and I was like, right, we’re coming up to hit hard. But obviously it was a shock to all of us.

“So I think this year everyone’s a lot more grounded, more of the approach of we perhaps won’t be the first out of the gate, but we have the potential to close. Hopefully be closer and hopefully have the potential to close the gap early on in the season.”

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Q: How did you stay fit during the off-season? Have you done any karting or other driving?

Hamilton: “No, I generally stay away from the driving side of things. I do a lot of other sports, so I play squash, I surf quite a lot. A lot of swimming. And I continue to run because that’s just part of the lifestyle that I choose. It’s just having that healthy lifestyle, running. And I was training, even on Christmas Day I was running up the mountain. So that’s just something that I have adapted to over time rather than taking off too big a break.

“I think it’s worked quite well. So I got in the car, I did 160-something laps in Jerez, and I felt good. As always, after the first day of running the back of your neck is always a sore part, and then you just get used to it.

“So I’m sure still after the first days that we’re running, your body is still getting accustomed to the forces, as the car should hopefully be quicker this year. But never just taking your eye off the ball, still trying to also enjoy your time, to be present with the group that you’re with.”

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Q: Do you need to see Mercedes prove to you that they can take you back to to the top before you commit long term or is it a foregone conclusion that you’ll sign this deal?

Poor start to 2022 “was a shock to us all”
Hamilton: “For the team, no, I don’t feel like I need them to prove to me. I think we’ve proved time and time again over the years that we have strength in depth. We still have all these incredibly talented individuals within the team. You don’t lose that ability. We’re continuing to try to improve our processes, and we’re continuing to try to be smarter in how we approach things, and with our communication.

“I think there’s the best harmony within the team that I’ve seen in all these years. And as I said, we’ve got a real fresh young group of engineers and people that have just come into the team over the past year as well. So it’s an exciting time for the team, and I don’t plan on being anywhere else.”

Q: Is there a particular element of the car that you have wanted engineers or the team to focus on in particular to push forward in 2023?

Hamilton: “There is, but I can’t really tell you. But it’s pretty much everything. It’s every element from the tip of the back to the tip of the front. But it’s mostly characteristics of how the car behaves.

“Last year’s car didn’t behave like a racing car should and that took away the confidence for the drivers. And so we’ve gone through, over and over again throughout the year, on the things that we wanted changing and we believe those have been addressed.

“But once we get in the car, we’ll know exactly just how much they’ve been addressed and whether there’s still more to do.”

Q: What do you make of the decision to go back to a black livery?

Black livery is preferred by “everyone in the garage”
Hamilton: “Everyone in the team, well pretty much everyone in the team, or in the garage at least, preferred the black car from before. So everyone’s with it, everyone likes it within the team.

“Ultimately weight is a key goal for us, we were overweight all year last year and so we were carrying a weight penalty even into the last race. So that’s been a heavy focus to try to make sure that’s not the case this year.

“We’ll find out later on whether or not we’ve hit that mark, because even last year they thought they were going to be on weight and we were way over. So I’m glad that that’s been taken serious, and that’s what we see in the paint. We see a lot of carbon, not too much paint on the car. It’s the bare minimum.

“For me, it’s positive because that means that it’s all-out for performance, and it’s not necessarily how it looks, it’s about how quick it goes.”

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Q: The W13 didn’t have many strengths but is there anything you would like to keep from the characteristics from the old car?

George Russell, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2023
Report: Mercedes keep “DNA” of troubled 2022 car but plan early change to unique sidepods
Hamilton: “The only thing that we would want to keep would be that our long run pace was very strong last year. I think our race pace was always stronger. So I would say that’s probably the only element that we really want to carry on into this season, and also reliability.

“So those two are the things I think that we definitely want to hold on to. But all the other stuff we want to reinvent, redesign and hopefully see a more efficient car.”

Q: Visually, it’s still a unique-looking car. You see a lot of other teams converging. How much does that excite you?

Hamilton: “I don’t believe we’ve ever been a team that copied the other people. We’ve always been of our own mind and always been a team that’s incredibly creative and innovative and like to do it our way. And I think this worked in the past.

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“Of course you see some of the cars, a lot of them are converging to what a Red Bull, perhaps, will look like. Except for Ferrari, maybe. And I think there’s definitely an element [that] last year we arrived and were like ‘damn, that looks quick’ and it wasn’t with all the issues that we had.

Hamilton hopes W14 retains its predecessor’s few positive traits
“Then coming into another season with a car that’s kind of similar-looking in many respects because some of the elements are really hard to change, but you just have to have the confidence in the engineers, and I do. So we’re sticking with it, we’re going with it and I hope when we get in it has the characteristics that we’ve asked for.

“But if not, then we will find a way. I think the job of the engineers and the designers is to find out, come up with solutions. So we’re prepared for ‘what if…’.

“The difficult thing is you can’t have a magic ball, crystal ball, so you never know what is up ahead, all you can do is prepare yourself and be present and just work diligently towards solving whatever issue it is.”

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Author information

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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12 comments on “Q&A: Hamilton keeps faith in “creative” Mercedes – and welcomes black livery’s return”

  1. “You don’t all of a sudden just lose the ability to be able to win”

    Well yes and no. As regulations change you need to be top of the game every moment. If you fail to do so someone else will do it better.

  2. It’ll be interesting to see how testing goes.

    Mercedes seem to have bet the farm on sticking with “their” concept which didn’t really shine last season.

    If it works for them this year, good for them, but if it’s not good enough to challenge the front runners, there will be a lot of egg on the faces of all those that insisted that theirs was the best and only way to go.

    I know they won’t show their hand fully at testing but I do believe that with only 3 days, we’ll get a general impression of who’s in good shape and who isn’t.

    Could be another long year for Hamilton and Russell. No doubt they’ll get some sympathy from Danny Ric who had to put up with some pretty poor iterations from RBR from 2014 thru 2017.

    1. I watched Ted’s reveal round up and he spoke of Merc wanting to try their unique one for 3 or 4 races, but have a back up more conventional car ready to roll in case it doesn’t pay off. I don’t know how that works but i thought it was interesting.

      1. I think that is pure speculation from Ted. First, there’s the issue of cost cap; teams simply can’t afford to have two different concepts under development simultaneously. It’s a lot of waste and very inefficient even without a cost cap! Second, why would they start the season, waste testing time on a car if they already know there’s a better one?! (remember what happened to them last year; they wasted a lot of testing time on a ‘fake’ car at the first test!!!)
        What Ted has misinterpreted to be a ‘second conventional car on the ready’ is simply a development path; the Mercs need to first and foremost correlate on-track performance with the sim / wind tunnel numbers of the W14. Once they confirm with either a strong correlation or not so strong correlation, then that will determine the development path they will choose for the rest of the season; that’s it!
        In the era of cost cap, having a ‘B car’ in development for a team like the Mercs is a non-starter; they simply can’t afford it!

        1. On the other hand, while I previously scoffed at the idea of a major change, I think their new slim sidepod design (which is significantly different from last year’s) could be modified to a Red Bull style setup without too much effort.

          But I don’t think the slim sidepods were ever the source of Mercedes’s problem in 2022. The only possible downside was that they provided too much downforce, and the car was potentially unstable as a result.

          No, the solution to their problems last year was the underbody– and I wouldn’t be surprised if their solution this year looks much closer to what Red Bull is running under the car. Any comments about major revisions are most likely there to throw everyone else off. Could be wrong– after all, they made a major change to the car between testing and first race last year.

          1. There wasn’t a major change; the car was always the ‘zero pod’! What they run in the first test was a ‘fake’!
            Anyway, the answers will start coming in a few hours…

  3. The Merc is stunning. I hope it’s as fast as it looks for a 3 way fight. It would be a shame for us not to see Lewis have at least one more opportunity to fight for a title before he retires.

  4. I hope Mercedes is fast for all sorts of reasons. First to add more spice to the overall championship. It’s clear there is a ton of bad blood between Red Bull and Merc and they love to beat one another. Ferrari and Red Bull just lacked that extra spice last year. At least during the beginning of the season when it was a close championship. But I also want Merc to be fast so we can see a real battle between Lewis and George. Last year they were clearly limited by the car. I hope this year we see some sparks between them as they fight for intra-team dominance.

    The other thing I note from the article is the old cliche “you don’t forget how to win.” If you don’t know why you were winning in the first place, then there is nothing to forget. So teams can undoubtedly go from hero to zero very quickly if they don’t understand what led to their success. I am not saying that is the case with Merc, but it is foolish to equate past success with future success, especially when a significant component of that success has been altered through a major change in regulations.

    1. Toto gets a lot of flack for his constant “downplaying” of Mercedes, but that’s part of what’s required to maintain a winning mindset.

      Wolff has built a team that expects to win. And when they don’t, they take it as a lesson, and an opportunity to get better.

  5. KC: “Lewis do you need the team to prove to you that they can provide the tools for you to win before you sign or is it a forgone conclusion that you’ll sign regardless?”

    Lewis: “The team do not need to prove anything to me.”

    Me: “So, you’ll sign then?”

    Lewis: “…”

    1. Follow up: I misread, Lewis explicitly states he has no plans to leave

  6. well pretty much everyone in the team, or in the garage at least

    is not the same thing as “everyone”…

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