“Crazy” gap to Red Bull leaves Hamilton fearing Mercedes won’t catch them for 2024

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Lewis Hamilton fears Mercedes may not be able to reduce their performance deficit to Red Bull in time for the start of next season having qualified a second behind them in Japan.

Max Verstappen lapped half a second faster than any other driver as he claimed pole position. Hamilton qualified seventh, 1.031 seconds behind the Red Bull driver.

Having been a lowly 14th in practice yesterday, Hamilton was pleased with the progress Mercedes had made overnight, but admitted they were unable to get any closer to Red Bull.

“Yesterday was horrendous but we made some good changes overnight and the car was feeling really good today, so I was much happier with it,” Hamilton told the official F1 website. “Just unfortunately we’re not quick enough.

“We’ve just got to keep working away. We’re a long way away on rear downforce, so that’s why we’re so slow in the first sector. But the laps felt really good.”

Hamilton admitted he has doubts Mercedes will be able to make enough progress to challenge Red Bull next season. “We’re one second away,” he said. “It’s like, crazy.

“To close that gap before next year, at this point to still be a second down on a track like this is definitely worrying for us as a team.”

The majority of Mercedes’ time loss came in the high-speed first sector, which shows where their car’s weakness lies, said Hamilton.

“In qualifying I was giving it everything but that seven-tenths deficit that we have in sector one is all rear end,” he told Sky. “Our car has loads of load on the front and not as much as we need on the rear. And so we’re a long way down on that.

“For me, that’s clearly concept. For me it’s 100% clear that it’s concept and we’ve got to make sure we change that for next year, which hopefully we will.

“There’s a steep gap that we have to close for next year but you’ve seen what the Astons did coming into this year, so they can make big steps. We’ve seen what the McLaren have done this year by going down the Red Bull route they’re now ahead of us here on a track like this.”

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Keith Collantine
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64 comments on ““Crazy” gap to Red Bull leaves Hamilton fearing Mercedes won’t catch them for 2024”

  1. It’s only a big gap to Max. Sergio is right there in front of them. I’d be more worried about how throughout the year, both Aston and McLaren have found ways to be ahead of Merc. Right now, I’d put my money on McLaren being the team to put pressure on Red Bull next year.

    1. I don’t think Merc’s been pushing development as hard as McLaren this year, looking more to next year.

    2. Perez obviously doesnt get the same car as Max.

      1. do you never get tired of yourself?

      2. RB is clearly cheating on Max car. Why no one ask for extra sensors and micro cameras under floor?

    3. Pérez isn’t able to push the limits of the car.

      He will still finish the season 2nd by default, which if anything, and especially considering his weak races and even weaker qualifying, prove Hamilton’s point.

      1. This did get me wondering, if Sergio can’t maximise the car and everyone is developing in Red Bulls direction, you might find many more drivers exposed…

  2. Robert Henning
    23rd September 2023, 9:47

    Lewis, you were the same guy saying that if RB don’t win by 30 seconds something is up. 52 laps at Suzuka is it? So you’d expect them to be at least 6 tenths up per lap.

    To me it seems that’s the delta in qualifying. Unsure what’s crazy about that.

    Maybe Mercedes falling behind Ferrari in a high speed track is because something is rigid?

    Time will tell.

    1. Mercedes have yet to find a way to move more ‘weight’ to the back of the car. Probably some has to do with the floor, how the floor uses the rear ‘winglets’ to pull/suck the air out from under the floor, and how the upper body work is interfering with the rear wing.

      Mercedes need to break the rules and make a car that works, like RBR before them, the precedent has been set, and for Mercedes to follow the rules blindly while they sacrifice their performance is lunacy. Right now McLaren and RBR are the best teams at finding ways to move money behind the scenes without being checked. Mercedes need to drop the white knight bit and start ****ing winning.

      1. if you look at the red bull’s rear wing vs the mercedes rear wing (bottom of) and how it ‘draws/diffuses’ the rear under currents, in to a very smooth laminar flow exiting the car its pretty obvious whats wrong with that aspect. Mercedes have a very simple box looking outlet, which has very small extrusions, which does not blend well with the rear winglets. Conversely RBR’s rear under wing, mates the upper and lower flows from the car a lot better, this helps aggregate flow across the car front to back better, and achieve better/quicker flow under the car, creating a bigger delta vs the top of the car. Basically the car is an upside down wing w/ flaps, and the flaps are much better integrated on the RBR car. You could look at the front wing like leading edge flaps/vortex generators, of the wing. Kudos to RBR to really getting the ‘guts’ of the under floor to look very organic/like the innards of some sort of sea creature with it’s kickouts and rounded sculpting.

        1. Well yes. Mercedes should try to beat RB at this game by spending exactly 432k or 1.8m depending on who you ask and beat RB. Except I don’t think that’s even remotely possible given imo Merc is just incapable of doing useful things with these regulations and are likely to bottle 2nd in the WCC.

  3. I think at this point, their car is the most inconsistent performance wise on the grid. They were fast at Barcelona and Silverstone which are tracks similar to Suzuka. They should be thankful Hamilton and Russell are the drivers, something in that car is just not working consistently.

    1. Tbh this seems relatively normal for mercedes cars since around 2017. Their cars always seem to be difficult to set up and get right. Then gradually as the season goes they not only improve the car but they understand it better too. Difference now is that it’s much worse but also there’s a cost cap and limit on wind tunnel time

    2. So the poor performance doesn’t have anything to do with the new technical directive?

      “Just scream hard, so they won’t suspect us”

    3. What are the odds! A car with only one positve feature! Its sometimes good on the tires!

      Jesus christ! The engieneers a Merc really fluffed this car! Even the previuos one.


      top speed,
      medium speed cornering,
      high speed cornering
      narrow operating window,
      most front posiotioned car on grid.
      Bad qualifier.


      Good inrace performance, efficient tire usage.

      I keep thinking if i was the driver, i would demand that the engeniers where woken with a kick to the balls every morning.
      They sold the idea to the drivers that positioning the seat far forward would carry benifits that outweighed the cons only the present the pile of shit that is the current car.

      How can merc make so many wrongs twice!

      1. Ahah, that’s a fun comment indeed, both the list of downsides and the daily punishment to the engineers!

  4. How come Mercedes haven’t made the ‘performance agains’ that the likes of Aston Martin and McLaren have made this year. Might it be that they are too proud to copy Red bulls designs?

    1. Hamilton is specifically telling the team as he has for two years that they went down the wrong path with the rear of the car. Aston and Mclaren have changed their concept but Mercedes soldier on. I don’t know if it’s pride or sunk cost fallacy it they need to wake up and smell the coffee now. Their concept is a dead end.

      1. Dave, I’m not sure it is entirely to do with pride, though that is an element of it. The Merc designers did a great job with their low rake car, but the low rake design is harder to get right, and less forgiving, so during their dominant years they had consistency problems, but that was an acceptable consequence of an inherently fast design. With the increased rake, the Merc designers have been forced to go into new floor aero territory where other teams already had more experience, and they also had less wind tunnel time than Mclaren, Aston Martin etc, due to their own success in previous years. Added to that, the 2022 no-sidepod added even more instability and has set them back even further. I think there was a lot of engineering pride involved in 2022 when they kept insisting the design would work, even though it looked like a dog from the first lap of pre-season testing.

        1. “but the low rake design is harder to get right, and less forgiving,”

          Here’s where I stopped reading your comment

      2. Hamilton should stop driving and start making cars. Maybe he can do that better for the 50m he gets paid to drive a car in circles.

        1. At this point, why not.

  5. Huh? Accelerate 25 programme was meant to make you faster and surely you will see its results next year! Or 2025 (hence its name) at the latest you will get a car that’s going to annihilate the opposition, because unfortunately Red Bull don’t have something similar in their works.

    1. When you have a party and people who talk shit about you show up uninvited?

      @expert armchairer @melanie and @Jimmi “i cant see clearly at all”Cliff.

      Its like the haters bal!

  6. Perez is 5th, with a Ferrari and both McLarens in front of him.. it’s not RB thats so much faster than you, it’s Max.

    Of course Hamilton would die before admitting anything of the sort.

    1. As Max succinctly put:

      I think if I’m in his car I’m still two tenths faster than him. I don’t care what he says,”

      1. hey, I like that one and had not seen it before. Sounds plausible enough (or should it be half a sec??), but do you have a reference?

        1. https://www.planetf1.com/news/max-verstappen-lewis-hamilton-faster

          It was just in-season banter. Same as Lewis saying Red Bull had the faster car in 2021. They’re both saying they believe they’re faster than the other guy. And its totally natural they’d both believe that.

        2. just shows how spoilt he is. was gifted one wdc, earned one more in a dominant car, and thats it by now.

          1. 2021 was well deserved, not gifted. Rectify all that should’ve gone differently based on merit, hamilton wins abu dhabi, verstappen 2nd; verstappen’s tyre doesn’t explode in baku, he wins and hamilton therefore doesn’t run wide, and ends 3rd; hungary bottas doesn’t play bowling and certainly hamilton doesn’t gain 16 points on verstappen, but less and so on.

            If you fix all these kinds of things you will see verstappen would be champion anyway, he simply was closer to the car’s max potential than hamilton was that season.

    2. The positve part about your opinion is that 2 people just agreed.

      I’am jeulous since you know Lewis Hamiltonso well you are aware of what he would never confess to.

      @Moi your gossip weighs as much 7 WDCS in my IMDO.

    3. As if ANYONE out there takes Perez as a reference for anything.

      If Max sits there and does the faster time in that car, it means the car can do it. So why would anyone look at what Perez is doing if he’s obviously underdriving that car?

    4. perez is just driving bad this year, and he often doesnt get the same car as max.

    5. This is an unrealistic comment because since when is a driver 1 sec faster than the opposition? If verstappen were really that fast, he’d have been fighting for the championship when the car wasn’t there yet, like 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, yet he didn’t, he simply had a good performance; I agree with the planet f1 comment, he could be 2 tenths faster than hamilton, not 1 second. Instead it’s well known that cars can make 1 sec difference and more than that, it’s more natural to think perez is massively underperforming.

  7. All you need to do is drive faster, give it a try

    1. All you need is the most dominant car ever!
      , a friendly FIA hand (last race in fact), a 150 miljon dollars just for showing up to the race. Also some overspending and a team that dots to your every need!

      Did i miss any privilege?

    2. p3 in wdc is the optimum result, not driving the rbr rocketship. think wiser, give it a try…

  8. I’m not sure what the viewing experience is like on other devices, but on my android using chrome the ads on this page were so obnoxious that I felt the need to download an entirely new browser with built-in adblock.
    You maybe need to tweek them so the page isn’t 90% ads.

    1. You could always pay the small monthly fee…

      1. Its really interesting to think about which services we value and don’t value.
        I have not done the analysis, however, there must be a maximum revenue possible for the site that is a mix of pay and non-pay users. I doubt that point includes so many ads that it drives away non-pay users. Good on them if they’ve found that point though.

        1. David, it is indeed a complex relationship. Some sites are quick to portray non-paying users as getting a free ride at their expense, but many of those sites would never have got to the position where they can charge for ads or subscriptions if it wasn’t for free users generating content for them, engaging with other users to create an active comunity, and generally spreading the word about the site.

      2. Falken, the services I pay for are the ones which feel good in the trial version. I’m not going to subscribe to something which feels very poor to use in the hope that the paid-for version might be better.

      3. Isn’t it wiser to install adblockers? You can rent movies online, but I think it’s wiser to use free streaming services.

      4. Other example, you can pay for f1tv, but you can also watch free f1 streams everywhere on internet.

    2. It’s the same for me on android, I have to keep reloading to avoid popups. They block the whole screen.

      I can’t even use my account because errors that stop the page loading when I’m logged in.

      I don’t mind adverts (we can’t expect things for free) but I’ve started using other sites after 10 years here.

    3. Same here. I find the site totally unusable on Androids. Some sites fall into the category of poor experience, but few make it into the unusable category.

  9. Well Lewis just drive faster – pretty bad for a 7x WDC to be tied in qualifying with his still relative rookie.

    You talk a lot about your competitors, complaint a lot about your car but I hear far too little ownership of your own failure to deliver better results.

    Personally I hope next year you actually get a proper midfield car as you never had a below top 3 car in your entire career.

  10. Well Lewis just drive faster – pretty bad for a 7x WDC to be tied in qualifying with his still relative rookie.

    You talk a lot about your competitors, complaint a lot about your car but I hear far too little ownership of your own failure to deliver better results.

    Personally I hope next year you actually get a proper midfield car as you never had a below top 3 car in your entire career.

    1. Allow it, man. BTW big fan of your work. Glad to see you still touring ignore the haters who say you too old now.

    2. Its a challenge when you meet Jimmie Kliff irl. Because Jimi is physically inverted an so is Jimme’s perception of the world. In reality he s proffesing his love of all things Hamilton.


    3. how comes the most stupid detractors are the ones directly adressing drivers. do u believe he is reading your stupid hate?

      1. And even if he did, I believe hamilton is actually happy about his performance this quali, you can only beat your team mate, if the car is off pace there’s not much to do.

    4. So even when hamilton beats his team mate, there’s some people still saying he should do more, sounds like some people are never ok with hamilton.

  11. Evaluating by 2022 and 2023, no, Mercedes won’t be anywhere near Red Bull still in 2024. They need a radical rethink.
    Hamilton presumably knew that was a strong possibility when he resigned? The team he left in 2012 are only now, over 10 years later, edging closer to the front again. It could be a long wait to really challenge for the WDC and win title number 8.

  12. Mercedes seems closer to AT than Mclaren, seems like TD has affected them rather the whole speculation of RB getting affected.

    1. All you need is the most dominant car ever!
      , a friendly FIA hand (last race in fact), a 150 miljon dollars just for showing up to the race. Also some overspending and a team that dots to your every need!

      Did i miss any privilege?

    2. All you need is the most dominant car ever!
      , a friendly FIA hand (last race in fact), a 150 miljon dollars just for showing up to the race. Also some overspending and a team that dots to your every need!

      Did i miss any privilege?

      1. I do not believe the Merc W05 or even the Fezzas Sharknose or Tipo 500 would be very helpful now. The McL MP4/4 neither

  13. lol, of course they won’t catch, and that’s not because of this qualifying.

    Red Bull only turns the wick on when they want, it was like they were just making a statement this time but they don’t even need to do it to win.

    And the other teams are WAY too inconsistent. Mercedes is one of the most disappointing actually, Aston Martin, Mclaren and Ferrari have higher highs and lower lows than them, but that is still better than to be consistently average and never get it going anywhere.

  14. Yesterday he told press he wanted redbull to show that they are capable of creating a big gap. Tpday they did and its still not to his liking. Lol

    1. Obs! Read the following very sarcastly!

      Lol! Oh yeah he must be confused!

      1. Its such a diva :)

    2. I think he said he expected red bulls to fly and they proved him right, or well, 1 of them did.

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