Hamilton focused on ‘day one’ 2024 Red Bull challenge
By Ian Parkes
Sunday 11th June, 2023 - 1:05am
Lewis Hamilton has already started to focus on challenging Red Bull “from day one” next season as he does not feel Mercedes will be able to apply pressure on Max Verstappen until later this year.
Hamilton and team-mate George Russell delivered Mercedes its best result so far by finishing second and third in the Spanish Grand Prix at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on Sunday.
Whilst the result was a positive for all at Brackley and Brixworth, and only bettered in the current aerodynamic era by the duo with the one-two in São Paulo last November, the downside was that Hamilton finished 24 seconds adrift of Verstappen.
So far, Mercedes has received early validation of its upgrade package that was first seen on the car in Monaco, but Hamilton is aware it is only the first step towards truly being competitive again with Red Bull, and that 2024 is a realistic target.
“With the current car we have, I don’t think we’ll be matching their performance (this season) but we’re working on improving the car,” said Hamilton.
“With the current package, we’re limited to the pace we had (in the Spanish GP), but I think there’s a huge amount of work and studying (going on), and improvement that we hopefully will have coming in the future.
“Naturally, they (Red Bull) should also be progressing through the year, so we need to be taking big chunks out of them with every step we take.
“They were a good few tenths ahead of us, maybe half a second ahead of us per lap – and on a single lap, that’s a little bit bigger – but I think we’re going in the right direction.
“I know we have something in the pipeline moving forward, so I’m hoping that at least by the end of the year, maybe we could challenge them.
“I’m more focused on making sure next year we have the car to challenge them from day one, and the further we continue to push this car this year, the more that impacts next year also, in some ways.
“But the more we learn about this car, that also sets us in the right direction. It’s trying to find the right balance.”
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Hamilton warns of Red Bull “danger”
Hamilton is aware, however, that given Verstappen’s dominance of the first seven races, and the likelihood he will quickly seal a third consecutive drivers’ title, that will afford Red Bull a degree of luxury in development for next year.
“They’re so far ahead and ultimately Max will continue to win this year,” said the seven-time F1 champion.
“That means they can start on their development for next year sooner, earlier than anyone else – if they haven’t already – and that’s the danger.
“We’ve just got to keep working hard but also try to get the right balance (between this year and next year).”
Hamilton is also conscious of the fact it is still potentially too early to draw any conclusion about the current car in its new guise given the updates, although the platform is at least a reliable one on which to build.
“They say if you’re quick in Barcelona, then the car should generally be good everywhere,” said Hamilton.
“I think we will be strong in the next races but there will be times when the Aston may be slightly ahead, or the Ferrari maybe is ahead, but our race pace continues to be a strength of ours, as it was last year.
“I think (in Barcelona) particularly, we’ve understood the car even more, and we can count on that being strong moving forward.
“We’ve just got to try to lift the overall performance of the car a little bit more to try to close the gap (to Red Bull).”