Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton believes that his team has a significant deficit to overcome in order to defeat Red Bull.
Lewis Hamilton has echoed the fears of his team principal Toto Wolff that Mercedes have a “massive gap to close” to topple Max Verstappen’s all-conquering Red Bull team next season.
Mercedes barely held onto their second place position in the constructors’ championship thanks to a £10million cash prize, as the Dutch driver claimed yet another win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, solidifying his team’s record-breaking season. Verstappen’s continued success and Mercedes’ struggle to keep up has taken a toll on the seven-time world champion’s confidence, as he admitted in a candid interview with the BBC.
In tough times like this, there will inevitably be moments where you question if the issue is with yourself or with the car. Do you still have it? Has it disappeared? Because without that certain factor, when everything aligns perfectly between you and the car, that’s when the special moments happen. Finding that perfect balance is what we strive for,” Hamilton explained.
The driver from Britain acknowledged that there were indications in February at Silverstone that the car for the 2023-23 season was not capable of performing well. He recalled having the same concerns about the previous season’s car and it was a disappointing feeling. He had high expectations for the new car.
Hamilton had a feeling of unease and disappointment with the design team during the first race of the season in Bahrain. He had requested specific changes to be made, but they were not implemented, leading to frustration. Despite the team’s belief that the fundamentals were solid, it became clear that changes were necessary. In February, Hamilton expressed frustration as his requested changes had not been made.
Hamilton’s losing streak continues with his second consecutive season without a victory. This brings the total number of races without a win to 45. It is also Mercedes’ first year in 12 years without a win. They ended the season 413 points behind Red Bull, who have already shifted their attention to the upcoming year’s car. In comparison, last season, Mercedes finished 244 points behind the world champions.
Hamilton has been supported by Mercedes in securing six of his seven world championship titles, tying the record. However, the 38-year-old will enter the off-season with uncertainty about whether he will be able to win another championship or even compete for a full season.
Wolff expressed his disappointment with Mercedes’ performance at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, stating that if they can provide their driver with a better car, he would have a chance at winning the world championship. However, he acknowledged that the current car is not up to par and is causing discomfort for the driver.
Hamilton is concerned that Verstappen will dominate the sport for the next two years due to small changes in the technical rulebook and a complete overhaul of regulations in 2026. He believes that their team has set higher goals than ever before, but it will be challenging to achieve them due to the significant gap they need to close.
However, he asserts that his passion for Formula One racing remains strong. He expressed, “I still have a love for driving and climbing into the car.” He continued, “When the car starts up and I have my team around me, going down the pit lane, I still feel the same excitement as I did on my very first day of driving.”