Hamilton urges Mercedes ‘squeeze more’ after upgrades boost
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 27th May, 2023 - 3:12am
Lewis Hamilton has called on Mercedes to “squeeze more” out of its long-awaited package of upgrades despite feeling improvements to his W14 throughout Friday practice ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix.
Hamilton finished the day half-a-second adrift of Max Verstappen in his Red Bull as the reigning F1 champion recovered from a frustrating first session to top the timesheet in the second by 0.065s to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Whilst the team has readily acknowledged the tight, twisty nature of Monaco is not the ideal place to test updates, Hamilton has at least garnered a positive first impression, although can already sense where they are lacking.
Running the rule over the package that includes new sidepods, floor and front suspension, Hamilton said: “I’ve generally had an amazing day. I really enjoyed driving.
“Everyone’s put so much time in, so many hours of hard work, to have us here, and I’m glad we were able to keep it on track for them, and I think we got a lot of data.
“It’s not the place to ultimately test an upgrade but the car was generally feeling good. It’s a shame we weren’t as close as I’d hoped at the end of the session, but I definitely felt the improvements.
“We’ve just got to keep chipping away to see if we can squeeze any more juice out of the cup.”
As to whether there was a particular area where he could feel the most improvement, the seven-time F1 champion added: “There is – I’m not going to say.
“It’s very clear where there is a lack of performance for me, and so we’ll talk about that in the debrief.
“We’ll put our heads together and try and figure out how we can do that within what we have but hopefully this gives us a platform to build on moving forwards.”
Despite the effort made by the team to start clawing back the deficit to Red Bull, Hamilton recognises the limitations of what he will be facing in qualifying compared to Verstappen and Red Bull.
“In P2 we were close to half a second off,” said Hamilton. “Maybe that could have been three-tenths but I don’t think we have half a second in the bag so we’ll see.
“We’ll work on it and see if we can squeeze some more out tonight.”
Mercedes need to “flip” weekend form for Monaco – Russell
Team-mate George Russell endured a difficult first hour of practice as he complained of a “weak rear” which was at least corrected for FP2, although he was still 0.729s behind Verstappen and only 12th quickest as the shortened track bunched up the field.
“Monaco is such a unique circuit,” said Russell. “It’s not really the place to be evaluating any updates or changes, and we knew that coming into the weekend, so we’re sort of almost forgetting about the upgrades. We’re about that next weekend (for the Spanish GP in Barcelona).
“Qualifying is obviously the most important part of this weekend, and qualifying is a part of the weekend where we generally struggle. We always do better on a Sunday when you look over the last 18 months.
“We need to try and figure some stuff out overnight and flip those for this weekend, but there are definitely some positive signs.”
As to where his assessment of where Mercedes will be this weekend in the fight in qualifying and the race, he added: “We hope with Aston and Ferrari. That’s where we’re aiming towards. Obviously Red Bull are a little bit in a league of their own at the moment.
“The midfield is tight. We’ve seen a number of times this year that a McLaren, an Alpine or even a Haas jumps ahead of us on a Saturday, but they’re nowhere on Sunday.
“Whereas if they do manage to do that this Saturday they probably will be with us this Sunday, so we need to work on our qualifying pace for this event, reassess and come back next week.”