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Lewis Hamilton Urged to Go the McLaren Way & “Pull the Ripcord” to Resolve Trust Issues at Mercedes

Published 09/26/2023, 10:45 AM EDT

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Drive To Survive. Season 5, Episode 1. George Russell looks at the W13 (Mercedes’ 2022 car) and says, “This looks fast.” Cut to every other driver mocking Mercedes’ ‘zero-pod’ design, ending with Russell saying, “As long as it’s fast, who cares?” Famous last words, am I right? When Formula 1 introduced the 2022 ground-effect regulations, it brought with it the problem of porpoising. Mercedes believed it could curb that issue with practically no sidepods. Considering Red Bull’s RB18—with normal sidepods—was the pace-setter last season, you would think Mercedes would’ve realized its design wasn’t working. The thing is, Lewis Hamilton realized it, but his team just chose to ignore him. Cue the trust issues.

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Mercedes hasn’t been part of the championship battle for two years now. Despite dominating F1 from 2014 to 2021, it just couldn’t cope with the new regulations. With Hamilton still gunning for that eighth title, he’s desperate for his team to return to fighting form. So, he’s taking matters into his own hands.

Lewis Hamilton & Co. need to take inspiration from McLaren


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The seven-time champion made it clear that he wasn’t happy with the W13’s design in 2022. The zero-pod concept wasn’t working, and Mercedes needed a better alternative. Instead of listening to him and scrapping the concept, the Brackley outfit went with the same design for its 2023 W14. But even Mercedes quickly realized it wasn’t the best idea and introduced a revamped B-spec in Monaco. Now that teams have already started working on their 2024 cars, Hamilton revealed he’ll be heading to Brackley to see if the engineers are making the changes he suggested to the W15.

Damon Hill discussed this and Mercedes’s changes to the W14 on the FI Nation Podcast. He said, “[Mercedes] have changed their exterior aerodynamics around the body of the car and tried to make progress. It’s looking more like the other teams in Formula 1 now. But you can only do so much with a car that started off going in one direction.” He compared it to what McLaren did this season, how the Woking team ensured its miraculous turnaround. Hill explained, McLaren, of course, was very open about having pulled a ripcord at the start of the season, going, ‘We don’t think this is the right way to go. We’ve got another direction to go in.’”


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“They did that earlier in the season and committed to it. The upgrades that have come since Austria have been constantly showing lots of room for improvement. That’s really why they are where they are right now, compared to Mercedes,” the 1996 champion concluded. McLaren went from being one of the worst teams at the start of the season to now being almost the second-best. That was primarily because it wasn’t afraid to start all over, something Mercedes is struggling with. 

Now that Hamilton is looking to resolve his inherent trust issues, it may point to the fact that Mercedes is finally starting all over. But what prompted Hamilton to go to Brackley to check on the W15 in the first place? Turns out, Max Verstappen had a role to play.

Lewis Hamilton wants what Max Verstappen has

Mercedes dominated the sport for seven years. That points to how good its car designs have been over the years. So when the 2022 car wasn’t up to the mark, the team wasn’t ready to dismiss everything the engineers had worked on. Speaking about the W13 to F1, Technical Director Mike Elliot said, “If you tear it all up and start again, you’re going to start further back than where you are. It’s better to take the car you’ve got and build on it.” The team seems to have gotten over this mindset now, considering it’s making changes Hamilton suggested. The seven-time champion revealed how the Japanese GP prompted him to go to Brackley.


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In Suzuka, the Brit qualified seventh, one second behind pole-sitter Verstappen. In an interview with BBC, Hamilton said, “An easy one second ahead of us for [Verstappen]. I’ve had cars like that before, and I know what it feels like. It’s pretty special when you drive a lap with a car with that sort of balance around here. So I am pushing and hoping for my team to build me that for next year.” Hamilton is aiming to have a car like Verstappen’s RB19. The Dutchman was completely in tune with his car, while the Briton struggled with the W14’s balance all weekend. In conclusion, Hamilton wants what Verstappen has right now.


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Where do you think the W15 will place in the pecking order next season?

WATCH THIS STORY | Lewis Hamilton and George Russell slapped with a brutal reality check amid resurrection rumors

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan


One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Aishwary Gaonkar