Lewis Hamilton feels Mercedes has delivered its best car of the new Formula 1 regulations so far after recent upgrades, but is wary that Red Bull’s current advantage will allow it to get a head-start on 2024.
Mercedes introduced a major update – described by Christian Horner as “almost B-spec” – in Monaco and then saw Hamilton and George Russell secure a double-podium in the Spanish Grand Prix. Hamilton said the car is feeling better than at any stage since the start of 2022 in a step forward that will motivate the team after it moved up to second place in the constructors’ championship.
“For me, definitely the best the car has been for the last year and a half,” Hamilton said. “That’s kudos to the amazing group of people we have at the factory continuing to work hard and push the car forward. It felt the best (on Saturday and Sunday in Spain) than it’s felt for the past 14, 15 months, whatever it is.
“That’s super-encouraging. I think not only for me, but for everybody in the team. This will be a big boost for everybody’s morale. We’re going to take that energy on to develop the car.”
However Hamilton still thinks the gap is too big to challenge Red Bull until much later this season, and noted that the advantage held by Max Verstappen’s team will allow it to focus on 2024 even earlier.
“With the current car that we have, I don’t think we’ll be matching their performance,” he said. “But we’re working on improving the car. With the current package, we’re limited to the pace that we had (on Sunday). But I think there’s a huge amount of work and studying and improvements that we hopefully have coming in the future.
“Naturally, they should probably also be progressing through the year. so we need to be taking big chunks out of them with every step we take. I don’t know, I think they were a good few tenths ahead of us, maybe half a second ahead of us, per lap. And on the single lap, that’s a little bit bigger.
“I think we’re going in the right direction. And I know we have something in the pipeline moving forward. I’m hoping at least by the end of the year, it would be great if we can challenge them. But I’m more focused on making sure that we have the car next year to challenge them from day one.
“The further we continue to push this car this year, the more that impacts next year also in some ways. But the more we also learn about this car, also sets us in the right direction. It’s about finding the right balance. They’re so far ahead, and ultimately, Max will continue to win this year. But that means they can start on their development for next year sooner than everybody else, if they haven’t already. And that’s the danger. We’ve got to keep working hard, but also try and get the right balance.”