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Hamilton: Aston’s rollercoaster F1 season highlights risk of Red Bull copy

Lewis Hamilton has said Aston Martin’s rollercoaster 2023 campaign shows why Mercedes cannot just copy Red Bull and hope to get to the front of Formula 1.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23

Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

The seven-time world champion’s Mercedes squad knew early on this season that its W14 car was not competitive, and it embarked on a concept overhaul that was in part ready for the Monaco Grand Prix.

But the team quickly concluded that even the steps it made this year were not enough, and it is working on a major overhaul for its 2024 car. 

Much of Mercedes’ efforts this season were spent in trying to get a better understanding of the development direction it needed, so it could lock in the necessary improvements. 

While that meant there was a great deal of learning to be done during the campaign, Hamilton thinks it was a necessary price to pay rather than blindly copying Red Bull ideas. 

He suggested the up and down form that Aston Martin endured throughout 2023, as it pursued a car very similar to Red Bull, highlighted the difficulties of making progress in F1. 

Asked about if there was ever a time Mercedes considered throwing away its current design and starting from scratch with a Red Bull clone, Hamilton said: “The thing is, with the timeline you have, and the limited resources you have, you can’t just throw it away and start from scratch. You can’t copy a car and start from that.

“Look at the Astons. They tried to copy a car and it wasn’t the same. It is not as easy as that. You have to try and take the good parts and through trial and error just try to add other parts.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, leads Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, leads Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

“But you can imagine they are also nervous of making too big a change and it being the wrong one.

“We need to be consistently week on week adding performance, and we have higher targets than ever before because we have a massive gap to catch. That makes it really tricky.”

Hamilton’s strong form at the United States GP allowed him to shadow world champion Max Verstappen for much of the race – giving him the perfect opportunity to understand just how strong the Red Bull RB19 was.

“It does everything well,” he said about what he observed that day. “It looks very similar to my 2020 car, characteristic-wise. Super-stable.

“They are firing on all cylinders. It looks like it’s in that kind of window, like we used to have, which for a driver is a dream because then you can really extract your own personal abilities to the max.”

And it is that advantage which Hamilton believes allowed Verstappen to ‘chill’ at the front of F1 races throughout his dominant 2023 campaign.

“We were the closest in Austin but I think they still always had a tenth or two at the bare minimum on us,” he said.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14

“You can go through lap times and some of the data from Max, he is chilling at the front more often than not. I don’t think he has broken a sweat during the year.

“Even when we were chasing him in Austin, I don’t think he was sweating. I think he was just able to control it.

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“When you are in that position, when you have performance and can back off, the car goes further. The tyres go longer and you are in a sweet spot and it’s amazing to be in that place.

“Ultimately, they have done an amazing job and deserve it. Whereas for us, we were chasing, chasing.”

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