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