Lewis Hamilton wrestled his Mercedes to P5 at the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, afterwards, he warned that his team faced their biggest Formula 1 development challenge ever in the coming months.
The seven-time F1 world champion, who has not won a race since 2021 and is now 38, said he was fighting hard for the team to finish second overall but major improvements had to come next season.
After a race of attrition at Suzuka, exhausted Hamilton told Sky F1: “It’s tough on weekends like this, particularly when the car is such a handful. The car felt just the same as last year, it’s bouncing and sliding.”
Hamilton managed to finish ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz but was beaten by the Italian team’s Charles Leclerc and both McLarens. Teammate George Russell finished seventh.
He said Mercedes had taken the drivers’ opinions on board: “I think all the points that George and I give have been fully listened to. I have no idea where the car is going to be next year but we are a long, long way away.”
“The next six months has to be the greatest six months of development that we’ve ever, ever had to close that gap, to be really banging on the door,” declared the Briton.
With Mercedes-powered McLaren finishing P2 and P3 with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri, Hamilton said his team needed to take a good look: “We can’t turn a blind eye to that. We’ve got to look at what they’ve done and go in that direction. That is the direction. But I truly believe my team can do it.
“We’ve always been great at putting downforce on the car, it’s just that with the way our car currently works, adding downforce isn’t working — it just makes it bounce more.
“Hopefully with the change in philosophy we will be back to where the team deserve because this is a world championship team,” added Hamilton, third in the 2023 F1 drivers’ standings behind the Red Bull duo. Mercedes are second in the Constructors’ table with six races remaining. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)