Both cars finished in the top five, a better showing than the Mercedes team had hoped for after entering the weekend with a car that was flawed in the nose.
Russell has had the edge on Hamilton in qualifying so far this season, beating him in both motorsport showdowns – Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Hamilton was only a hair over three and a half tenths slower than Russel at the Jeddah circuit, but the gap was much larger in Bahrain.
The Mercedes W14 doing Lewis and George no favours this F1 season
Hamilton’s poor balance and grip in the first sector were the main reasons for the gap. At the end of the qualifying round, Hamilton cut a despondent figure and said he didn’t feel “connected” to the car. He then said that no matter what he did, he couldn’t get his confidence back.
The seven times F1 champion openly blamed the car’s lack of rear downforce, but he also made a cryptic remark that hinted at something else about the W14 that is making him feel “uncomfortable” that he has never felt before in his career. Hamilton didn’t specify what it was, but he did say he needed to change it by consulting with the team.
Mercedes’ lack of downforce is most apparent in the car’s lack of rear-end stability. In practice, the drivers had trouble finding the sweet spot, with the front end being either too weak or the downforce being set too high, making the car too pointy for Hamilton to feel comfortable. On the radio, he stated that the vast majority of qualifying attempts were not safe.
What exactly went wrong with Mercedes?
Mercedes’ director of trackside engineering, Andrew Shovlin, confirmed the presence of subtle shifts in mechanical balance at various points in the lap. His goal was to improve his “poor rear grip” during Friday’s extended runs.
Shovlin’s complaint that the car lacks sufficient entry stability is consistent with these issues. In a fast, challenging circuit that rewards confidence, this is the restriction that Russell seemed to handle better than Hamilton did in qualifying.
Hamilton further elaborated, saying the Mercedes feels like it is “on a massive knife edge” when driven at 95% or above, but is much more manageable in race trim than in qualifying. However, even with the car setup for racing, which makes it more comfortable and predictable, he still doesn’t feel confident driving it.
Russell shares the same level of exasperation, but he is making every effort to take on a leadership role on the team. Not only has he expressed satisfaction with the vehicle, but he is also putting in more time than ever before in the simulator in an effort to advance the team’s progress and development.
Lewis Hamilton came into this season eyeing for his eight F1 championship, but so far, it’s only a far cry because of Mercedes’ poor decisions. Should Mercedes fix the ongoing issues fast enough, however, be prepared to see Lewis Hamilton blaze through the racetrack once again!