Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes’ car is performing better than at any stage since the current set of Formula 1 rules were introduced at the beginning of last year.Max Verstappen in yesterday’s Spanish Grand Prix, Hamilton said he wants to ensure the team starts next year in a position to fight Red Bull. But he’s also hoping Mercedes close the gap to Formula 1’s dominant force over the rest of this year.
Mercedes introduced a major upgrade to its car at the previous race in Monaco, but knew they wouldn’t be able to fully explore its potential until they had taken it to a more conventional circuit. Following his strong drive to second place in the Spanish Grand Prix, passing an Aston Martin and a Ferrari on the way, Hamilton was full of praise for his updated W14.
“The car felt great today,” he said on Sunday evening at the Circuit de Catalunya. “Friday was a real struggle with the balance, it was way out of the window. It was very hard to drive, very unpredictable. And then we did some great work overnight.
“We’ve got a great team, with Mick [Schumacher] back in the simulator on Friday night, he did some great work which helped us get on the right track on Saturday. I think we did pretty decent work in trying to understand the different downforce levels. In the race today the car felt great.”
However he admitted their performance may have been flattered by the nature of the circuit, which largely featured medium and high-speed corners with few slow bends. “They normally say if you’re quick in Barcelona then the car should generally be good everywhere, but I think we will be strong in the next races,” he said.
“There will be times when the Aston may be slightly ahead, or the Ferrari maybe is ahead but I think our race pace continues to be a strength of ours, as it was last year. This weekend particularly we’ve understood the car even more so I think we can count on that being strong moving forward. We’ve just got to try to lift the overall performance of the car a little bit more to try to close the gap to [Red Bull].”
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The updated W14 is “definitely the best the car’s been the past year and a half,” said Hamilton. “So that’s kudos to the amazing group of people we have back at the factory who continue to work hard and push the car forward.
“It felt the best this weekend, it felt the best yesterday and today than it’s felt for the past 14/15 months, whatever it is. And so that’s super-encouraging, I think, not only for me but for everybody in the team. This will be a big boost for everybody’s morale. And we’re going to take that energy on to developing the car.”
However he admitted he “couldn’t match the times that Max was doing” in the race as the Red Bull driver cruised to win by 24 seconds.
“With the current car that we have, I don’t think we’ll be matching their performance, but we’re working on improving the car,” he said. “With the current package we’re limited to the pace that we had today but I think there’s a huge amount of work and studying and improvement that we hopefully will have coming in the future.”
Although Hamilton does not yet have a contract to drive for the team beyond this season, he said his priority is ensuring they start next year in a position to challenge Red Bull.
“Naturally, they should also be progressing through the year, so we need to be taking big chunks out of them with every step we take. I think today they were a good few tenths ahead of us. Maybe half a second ahead of us per lap – and on a single lap, that’s a little bit bigger. But I think we’re going in the right direction and I know we have something in the pipeline moving forward, so I’m hoping that at least by the end of the year, maybe we can could challenge them.
“I’m more focused on making sure next year we have the car to challenge them from day one. And the further we continue to push this car this year, the more that impacts next year also, in some ways. The more we learn about this car also, that also sets us in the right direction.
“It’s [about] trying to find the right balance. They’re so far ahead and ultimately Max will continue to win this year – but that means they can start on their development for next year sooner, earlier than anyone else if they haven’t already – and that’s the danger. So, we’ve just got to keep working hard but also try to get the right balance.”
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