Hamilton – It could take all year to close gap to Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton fears it could take all season for Mercedes to catch Red Bull this year

Lewis Hamilton fears it could take all season for Mercedes to catch Red Bull this year

It is a worst-case scenario but Lewis Hamilton has expressed concern it could take Mercedes all season to finally catch Red Bull.

The eight-time F1 constructors’ champions have been on the back foot since the introduction of new aerodynamic regulations at the start of last year.

The W13 was initially badly affected by porpoising and bouncing as a result of the ground effect on the cars, phenomena Hamilton claims were prevalent throughout all of last season.

In São Paulo, where Mercedes scored its only win of the year as George Russell spearheaded a one-two, the balance of the car allowed it to finally end its winless run.

In maintaining the same concept for this year with the W14, Mercedes was aware that as soon as it hit the track in pre-season testing it had again made an error of judgment as the numbers validated what had been seen over the winter.

The team is now desperately fighting to make the changes that are required to push it back into contention at the front, with team principal Toto Wolff claiming that improvements are arriving swiftly.

Seven-time Formula 1 champion Hamilton, however, is aware Red Bull will not be idly standing still, meaning the gap to the current pacesetters may not be closed until late in the year again.

“I’m hopeful we find the trick and we are straight on the right track that’s not far away from the others,” said Hamilton, speaking at Melbourne’s Albert Park ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

“We’ve shown in the past that we can develop quickly and I hope that is the case now.

“As the potential of the car opens up, the guys can go full steam ahead in that direction. I’m grateful that they are open to making a shift and not being stuck with what we have but I’m aware that it could take a long time to catch up.

“The Red Bull is just going to continue to evolve. That’s most likely, although some cars do plateau in performance and at some point can’t keep going.

“It is potentially going to take the rest of the year to close the gap.”

Hamilton explains car feeling

The issue with the W14 for Hamilton is that he has no confidence in how it performs at the rear.

That is because its cockpit is “too close to the front”, according to the British driver.

“In the past, I’ve always enjoyed an oversteering car,” said Hamilton.

“We sit closer to the front wheels than all the other drivers. When you are driving you feel like you are sitting on the front wheels, which is one of the worst feelings when you are driving a car.

“If you were driving a car at home and the wheels were right underneath your legs, you would not be happy approaching a roundabout.

“What that does is that it changes the attitude of the car and how you perceive its movement. It makes it harder to predict compared to when you are further back and more central. It is something I’ve really struggled with.

“It’s doing the opposite of what we want and that’s what we’re trying to fix.”

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