Mercedes wait and see what “medicine” W14 needs as Hamilton admits concerns

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

Lewis Hamilton was downbeat after ending the opening day of practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix in eighth place.

The seven-times world champion, who went without a win all year for the first time in his career last season, was over six tenths of a second off the pace of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin – which uses the same Mercedes power unit.

Despite its poor showing last year, Mercedes has persisted with its unique approach to the technical regulations which were introduced last year, including its novel ‘zero’ sidepods. But Hamilton indicated yesterday he feels some aspect of the team’s design philosophy is holding it back.

“Do I believe we can close the gap at some stage? Yes, but I think it’s quite hard with concept we have,” he said.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023 pre-season test
Report: Mercedes even further behind rivals than last year after practice – Hamilton
At the W14’s launch the team said it retained the DNA of its flawed predecessor. While the team confirmed at that stage they intended to revise its novel sidepods, Team principal Toto Wolff stressed “our sidepod design is not something that we believe was fundamentally the reason why we didn’t perform.”

Speaking ahead of the second practice session yesterday, Elliott addressed the question of how the team plans to unlock performance from its car. He said they were not leaping to conclusions about its position in the pecking order, and they had met their development targets for the new car.

“In terms of where we’re trying to get to with weight, what we’re trying to do with aero, we were sort of hitting the targets we’d set ourselves,” he said. “We’ll find out whether they were enough.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Today will give the first real sign of where the team truly stands, said Elliott. “The first question is: Is there a problem? I think we won’t really know that till we get to qualifying for definite.

Mercedes’ novel sidepods will change but remain “different”
“If you look at what we’ve tried to do over the winter, we’ve tried to develop our issues we had in the car and I think, by and large, we’ve done that. But ultimately this is a relative game so until we know exactly where all the teams pan out, and we’ll probably have a good idea after qualifying, at least for this circuit. Then we go from there.”

Although Mercedes plans to evolve its sidepods design, Elliott indicated they aren’t prepared to take the lead of one of their rivals.

“It’s how we developed the car last year. We’ve done a lot of work looking at other types of solutions and we keep coming back to this one as being the one that favours us. Is that the right long term solution? I guess we’re going to find out.

“As it happens, I think Toto has already said, we’ve got different bodywork coming. It won’t be the same as other people’s and it won’t be the same as what we’ve got. But it’ll be different.”

Altering the sidepod is a complex job which also means reconfiguring the components within it. “It takes time to make the bits, it takes time to change the bits that go underneath the bodywork for it to fit so we’ll bring it as soon as we can.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

But whatever Mercedes has planned for the most distinctive aspect of its 2023 design, Elliott said the team hasn’t committed to a major change to its car concept. Doing so would be difficult within the constraints of F1’s performance-balancing Aerodynamic Testing Regulations, which limits Mercedes to less development time than the majority of teams on the grid which finished behind them in last year’s championship.

“You can’t take medicine until you know what you’re trying to fix”
“The ATR is definitely a big restriction for teams like us, we are a long way short of where people further back on the grid were,” said Elliott. “It makes it a difficult decision if you do want to do something very different.

“But I think you’ve just got to take a long-term view to that and say, if you were on the wrong path, what would you do? You obviously need to address that.

“But let’s see where we are in qualifying and in the race this weekend. It doesn’t feel like we’re anywhere near trying to make that sort of decision.”

It may take several races for the team to understand what scale of change it needs to make, said Elliott.

“There’s always lots of developments in the factory that’s not here on the car because it takes time to bring it. We’re doing that big chunk of work.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“I think you just have to look honestly at where you are in the lap times. So I think we’ll see where we are [on Saturday], see where we are on Sunday. We’ll probably need a race or two to really know where that sort of pans out.

“If you look at the winter testing times and you try and correct for fuel weight and engine modes and all the rest of the things you can correct for, there’s such a wide band, it’s really difficult to know where we are. So let’s just see where we are. You can’t take your medicine until you know what ailments you’re trying to fix so let’s just see where we’re at.”

Bringing the F1 news from the source

RaceFans strives to bring its readers news directly from the key players in Formula 1. We are able to do this thanks in part to the generous backing of our RaceFans Supporters.

By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the equivalent in other currencies) you can help cover the costs involved in producing original journalism: Travelling, writing, creating, hosting, contacting and developing.

We have been proudly supported by our readers for over 10 years. If you enjoy our independent coverage, please consider becoming a RaceFans Supporter today. As a bonus, all our Supporters can also browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix articles

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...
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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

9 comments on “Mercedes wait and see what “medicine” W14 needs as Hamilton admits concerns”

  1. Well, you could never accuse Mercedes of making a car to ideally suit Hamilton’s racing style (or Russell now for that matter). Still it’s worked for them in the past. The plus point may be the potential for development, so proportionally more speed gains compared to rivals, and their different design, which could see them come up with something the other teams would be unable to emulate. Maybe. They seem to be taking their time about it…

  2. With what Aston Martin is doing so far, can we still say that Mercedes engine is underpowered?

    Last season, Mercedes ‘engined’ cars didn’t do pretty well and the most of the blames were targeted at Mercedes engine being the weak link.

    We’ll see how the season pans out…

  3. Yoseph Shibeshi
    4th March 2023, 13:42

    Elliott appears to make a point, don’t jump to conclusions, yet. I think he’s right. Let’s wait and see before writing off the whole season. Hope he gets vindicated

  4. Electroball76
    4th March 2023, 13:49

    It’s not the sidepods. Not the sidepods..
    Aha! – the third shoulder fin! That must be it.

  5. Ham won’t see out the season at this rate! He’s probably already discussing his get out clause.

    1. Ham won’t see out the season at this rate!

      I appreciate you’re worried you’d then have absolutely nothing else to say about F1, but it’s unlikely.

      1. How little you think you know….

    2. Highly unlikely… But I’d love to see Hamilton and Leclerc at Ferrari!

      1. Ham and Lecl at Ferrari, Alonso and Max at RB and George and Lando at Mercedes please.

Comments are closed.