Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024 pre-season test

Red Bull “clearly out in the distance” – Hamilton

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Lewis Hamilton saw little chance Mercedes will catch Red Bull at the start of the upcoming season after his first test in the team’s new car.

He described Mercedes’ W15, which is a significant departure from the team’s previous design, as a “work in progress.”

“It’s definitely improved,” said Hamilton, “I think everyone has. We’re just going through the same sequence everyone is.

“The cars are still stiff and bumpy as we know, this generation of car. But the team have done a great job over the winter.”

Hamilton covered 123 laps of the Bahrain International Circuit on Thursday and said his new car was clearly an improvement over its unpredictable predecessor. “It was a good day,” he said. “It felt much more enjoyable to drive.”

But he doesn’t expect an immediate change in the team’s fortunes. “We still have time to find,” he said. “I think Red Bull clearly are out in the distance. But I think it’s a good platform to work from this year.”

Mercedes’ trackside engineer director Andrew Shovlin drew encouragement from Hamilton and his team mate George Russell’s first impressions of the new car.

“We’ve had three useful days here in Bahrain and managed to make good progress understanding the W15,” said Shovlin. “Compared to last year’s car, the feedback from the drivers is very different and more positive, which is encouraging. The team has worked hard to iron out the handling flaws that were integral to the W14, and it’s great that we seem to have put a number of those problems behind us.

“Over the course of the test we’ve made good steps on our understanding of the car. The task of the next few days is to pick through the results and put together the best package to take into the race weekend.”

Although he felt rival teams had disguised their true pace in testing, Shovlin said “it’s clear that we are in a much better position than 12 months ago though.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Formula 1

Browse all Formula 1 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...

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

15 comments on “Red Bull “clearly out in the distance” – Hamilton”

  1. Nobody knows. Maybe Mercedes and Ferrari are sandbagging and playing the underdog.

    1. Red Bull’s fastest times were significantly slower than last year. That seems very unlikely.

      How much they’ve gained is a big unknown. We can guess by averaging the other teams, but we also don’t know exactly what they were doing, so it’s hard to say. We’ll see in 6 days.

      1. MichaelN,
        It’s guaranteed that RBR are sandbagging. The Red Bull race simulation showcased remarkable strength, demonstrating minimal tyre degradation, unlike Ferrari’s slightly more noticeable degradation, which is typical. However, the exceptional aspect lies in Red Bull’s nearly negligible tyre wear !

        1. However, the exceptional aspect lies in Red Bull’s nearly negligible tyre wear !

          That would be expected given that’s been one of their main strengths, and it seems unlikely they lost that over the winter. As noted elsewhere, it’s a fair expectation that Red Bull will still be on top. And probably by some margin. That’s not the kind of thing that just disappears, and their advantage in 2023 was huge. So it’s up to the other teams to deliver. We’ll see soon enough, I guess.

          And as we now know from FOM’s own statements, teams that are not competitive for wins and podiums have no place in F1. So the incentive is there for the others to do better.

      2. That’s the kind of information i was looking for. The times relative to last years testing on the same circuit, allowing for any changes in the tires.

        Personally I don’t think Mercedes brought the floor they’ll race with, there was too much risk of something going wrong and them revealing their design to the world.

        That said, there were instances of Hamilton running the car wide, proving that he at least was testing the car for its limit, learning what it can’t do, as others sought to reassure themselves of what it could do.

    2. I’m sure Mercedes is sandbagging, they are doing it almost for two years now. It seems that year after year they forget to throw the sand out of the bags.

      1. No, I don’t think Mercedes is sandbagging– but I think the pundits aren’t giving them enough credit, either. They managed to take 2nd in the Constructor’s with what was probably the 3rd fastest car, and that was with an unpredictable car that neither driver particularly liked driving.

        The W15 car appears to be far more predictable, better to drive, and apparently, has a very configurable front suspension.

        However, Mercedes is just starting to learn this car– all the information they had on making last year’s car perform better, is only marginally applicable to this car. The same, however, is true of the RB20– The RB19 was essentially a continuation of the RB18, so any lessons learned in 2022 on tuning the car applied to the 2023 season as well.

        This puts both Red Bull and Mercedes on the back foot a bit– I doubt either car is running anywhere near 100% of it’s potential, but I think both teams will catch up rapidly, and by the European stint, we should be seeing notable improvements on both.

        Ferrari, on the other hand, seems to have more of an “evolution” than “revolution”, which makes me wonder how much of their maximum performance they’re getting right now.

        I sort of expect that the first few races will be a shootout between Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, but as the season goes on, Red Bull will pull ahead, and Mercedes will be somewhere between Red Bull and Ferrari.

        McLaren and Aston Martin are difficult to assess right now– Both are ahead of where they were this time last year, but so’s the rest of the field. Aston Martin doesn’t seem to have the same relative pace they started 2023 with.

  2. “Stiff and bumpy”?
    I thought it is good for fast cornering?

    1. It appears to me the Mercedes has lost the pogo stick behavior that was problematic last year, but it does not look settled in the corners. Seems to me Mercedes spent a lot of hours just understanding the high speed bounce characteristics of ground effect cars. If only they had an old CART engineer (like Newey) who learnt this decades ago.But after burning their allocated hours on that, they can now focus on driveability and speed. They should advance though the season

  3. RB consistency and tyre degradation, especially driven by Verstappen, tells it all. RB did not even try to show a special lap to the rest of field. They already know.

    1. yes, the times didn’t rise at all did they, in the race sim. The pundits seem to think .4 to 1s advantage!

      We are doomed. But behind him, it’s looking pretty open at least, lots of setup and development to make a difference each race

      And there’s the F1 politics of course. Has anyone seen Jos recently??

  4. It will be another forgettable season. Max will go unchallenged to the title for the third year in a row. Yawn!!

    1. When Newey was on a roll with Vettel and the blown diffuser, it seems to me every year they got farther ahead until the rules change reset the technology. Really really curious to see if this era of Newey will be the same.

  5. Formula One got so lame it’s not even the sport i’m watching the closest now. It was for most of my life.
    Of course i’ll try and watch the races, but it got impossible to feel any expectation from it.

    As a product, it’s broken. Has been for a long time, it needs fixing asap.

    1. Sorry to disagree. To me it has always been about the technology and the engineering game to make cars go fast. I will continue to watch. It reminds me of the old days when Honda, then Renault were clearly superior month after month.

      I just wish more emphasis was placed on the engineering side. That is where the real drama is. If you want to know where a race teams spends its money, go look out back in the shed where the old parts are thrown.

Comments are closed.