Hamilton and Russell asked Mercedes why W14 didn’t look like rivals’ cars

2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton says he and team mate George Russell urged Mercedes to consider rivals’ designs before they abandoned the unique ‘zero’ sidepod concept.

Mercedes have won just one race out of 28 since Formula 1 changed its technical regulations at the beginning of last season. At the previous round in Monaco the team finally replaced the W14’s distinctive sidepods with a new design closer to that used by Red Bull, who have won 23 times since the beginning of 2022.

Hamilton said he and Russell had been eager to understand the reasons for the differences between their car and their rivals’ design.

“The input that we’ve been having as a team, George and I, over the past year, it’s those constant conversations going like: ‘Why does that look like that and we look like this?’, ‘Have we tried that?'”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Monaco, 2023
Mercedes introduced its upgraded car in Monaco
The extensively revised W14 which debuted in Monaco is a clear departure from the previous design and closer in configuration to Red Bull’s all-conquering RB19.

“We now have the wider sidepods that are more in the direction of where the Red Bull is,” Hamilton told media including RaceFans at the Circuit de Catalunya today. “It’s not been my decision to go that way.”

While the team cured the porpoising problem which blighted last year’s car with the W14, it did not find the anticipated gains in performance elsewhere, said Hamilton.

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“It’s been clear that when we dropped the car back on the ground in the first test, it’s basically the identical twin, really, to last year’s car except for the bouncing,” he said. “So really the better-looking sister. But still with some of the very similar characteristics and how it drives, apart from the bouncing.

Hamilton hoping Mercedes’ upgrade offers more in Spain
“We’ve taken note of where we are and we’ve gone wrong and now we’re just slowly chipping away and trying to navigate our way back to the front. It’s just a long process, unfortunately.”

One aspect of the car Hamilton has complained about is his driving position, which interferes with the handling sensation. But that can’t be changed until the team introduces a new chassis. “There’s nothing you can do about it, that’s just the way it is,” he said.

“The only thing you can do ultimately is just trying to slow the rate of rotation, stabilise the rear end. So that’s just something you try to do on mechanical balance.

“But we’re just limited with the tools you have. It’s the same ones as last year. But the new suspension was a real positive for me, it gave me a lot more confidence last week and so I’m hoping that translates here.”

Mercedes did not expect the upgrade would immediately slash Red Bull’s lap time advantage over them in races, which has been a second per lap or more at some venues.

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“There’s been around a second delta in race trim, for example, we haven’t covered that with this step but it is a step in the right direction,” said Hamilton. “What I felt last weekend was I felt a little bit more confident in the car, more able to commit to the corner.

“So I’m hoping that at this track that’s the same, but hopefully better because there’s a lot of medium and high-speed corners. I’m hoping the flow of the car is better and maybe in following we can follow closer.

“A huge amount of work has gone into this and we’re hoping that it puts us on the right track,” he added. “Changing train tracks, putting us on the track that can lead to that second.”

Hamilton hopes the upgrade will bring them closer to the likes of Aston Martin and Ferrari, but said “I know those two have upgrades here this weekend.”

“Someone said they had upgrades this weekend so we’ll find out tomorrow how good those upgrades are,” he continued. “Just from looking at the numbers of what this upgrade is, before they had their upgrade, maybe it would put us right close to them.

“But we’ll see whether they take a big step or a small step forwards this weekend. I’m still hopeful that we can compete with them this weekend. But it’s a big hope.”

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2023 Spanish Grand Prix

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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...
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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13 comments on “Hamilton and Russell asked Mercedes why W14 didn’t look like rivals’ cars”

  1. I wonder if we’ll get to know who it was that didn’t just lead the team into a cul de sac initially but also thwarted any and all opportunities to change direction between the on-track debut of the W13 on Feb 19, 2022, and the final announcement of a concept change more than 12 months (and another launch of a failed car) later.

    1. I think you’ll find the answer in the “Mike Elliott and James Allison switch positions” headlines.

    2. So from the analysis I have seen elsewhere it basically started from the insane numbers they got on CFD and in the wind tunnel, I think for a long time they genuinely believed if they could get reality to line up with their models they would dominate…

      I think it’s hard when you see something like that to really have the strength to go in a new direction… They have seen numbers and they know they are amazing, but the car in track never performed at the same level

  2. Well if you want to be faster, you have to be different..

    But if you are different from fastest, that is because of the differences.

    I think what drivers really are asking is.. Why are we slower than Red Bull.

    1. In theory, the reduced size of the side pods (as a result of some very high tech coolers) should have reduced drag, and increased downforce.

      It SHOULD have made the Mercedes the fastest thing on four wheels at any F1 event.

      Why it failed is a mystery we may never know.

      1. I actually don’t think it’s that much of a mystery. The potential gains for the concept are clearly massive to the point of being near unbeatable if you can make it work, but it’s very, very difficult to make it work when there’s no way to really control the airflow precisely further towards the back of the car, which will make it really sensitive, especially to pitch, roll and yaw, bumps, crosswinds… pretty much anything that upsets the balance of the aero platform will be magnified tenfold compared to a car that has more surfaces to manage the airflow.

        Even if it looks great in the wind tunnel and on CFD, throw in on track conditions messing it up then trying to chase what’s causing it that week is nigh on impossible.

        And of course, how a car ditches the air going over it also dictates how much drag it has, so all that messy, uncontrolled air hitting what they are controlling disrupts that and there’s a ton of drag as well to add into the mix. Which is also something we’d seen on the W13 and W14.

  3. As an engineer I would dread a visit to a bus station with Hamilton and Princess George

    1. then better stay at home

    2. I was Lewis’s bus driver on several occasions, and he was always well behaved and never complained. I suspect he thought I was a bit aloof because usually didn’t immediately recognise him and cordially greet him.

  4. isthatglock21
    1st June 2023, 23:28

    Shown to be a team clealry stuck it in its ways. Took way too long to change when even WIlliams switched let alone Aston. Throw in a year of pure data collection, only for it to be pointless as tools, sims & wind tunnel were all set up wrong way. Embarrasing. And now clearly discarding all input from drivers. No wonder Lewis said he saved pictures of the RB floor on his phone, clearly always pushing the team/asking questions, as does George. Imagine they had a less vocal lineup, they’d still be working on their old data set cause it implied they should be lapping the field in 10 laps & it would ‘come good’

  5. I think both drivers are looking at other teams which is why we keep hearing that they aren’t looking at other teams. Mercedes is still sticking with their original design with minor changes. The car will never compete with Red Bull until RB switches engines.

  6. I was interested to read about his position in the car and how it alters the handling sensation, not something I’d considered but I have no doubt it does make a difference and probably also affects the angle at which you reference apex’s, walls and other cars.

  7. The difference is always multitude of factors, ground effects being key here, many explained the level of detail the RB has over the Mercedes is mind boggling. RB having a better understanding of ground effects is a major factor maybe? Yuu can see teams like AM and Mclaren poaching RB engineers and heads, even Ferrari in the mix.

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