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Hamilton: Mercedes needs best ever six months of F1 development to catch Red Bull

Lewis Hamilton has said Mercedes needs the greatest six months of Formula 1 car development in its history if it is to close the gap to Red Bull next year.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG

Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

After a disappointing Japanese Grand Prix weekend, where Mercedes found itself with only the fourth quickest car, it is aware of just how far ahead Red Bull remains right now. 

Hamilton, who has been pushing hard for Mercedes to totally revamp its concept approach, said that there should be no shying away from accepting the size of the gap that needs to be closed before the start of the 2024 season. 

“I have no idea where the car is going to be next year, but we’re a long, long way away,” he told Sky Sports.

“We’ve got to hope for the next six months to be the greatest six months of development that we’ve ever had to close that gap and to be really banging on the door.” 

While the time gap to the front looks sizeable, Hamilton thinks that the example of McLaren – which changed car approach to help it emerge as Red Bull’s closest rival – is proof of the leap that his team can make.

“The evidence is there at McLaren, and we can’t turn a blind eye to that – to look at what they’ve done and go in that direction,” he said. “That is the direction.

“But I truly believe my team can do it, and we’ve always been great at putting downforce on the car. It’s just that, with the way our car currently works, adding downforce doesn’t work, it just makes it bounce more.

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

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

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

“Hopefully with a change in philosophy, we’ll be back to where the team deserves because this is a world championship team, we still are an amazing team. I have absolute faith in everyone but decisions that are made in this period of time are critical for our trajectory.”

Twelve months ago, Mercedes began to make progress with its W13 car and that culminated in it taking victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix. 

One consequence of that triumph was it left the squad convinced that it was on the right development path with its concept, so it stuck to its guns for 2023. 

That proved to be a mistake, especially with the team pitching its aero platform around too high ride height. This left it unable to make hoped-for gains.

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Hamilton said just fighting for good points positions now was hard work, but it was important to do so in order to help the team’s constructors’ championship efforts. 

“I’m giving absolutely everything, but it’s tough on weekends like this, particularly where the car is such a handful,” he said.

“Basically, it’s the exact same as last year. Feeling-wise, the car felt just the same as last year. It’s bouncing and sliding, so that’s tough given how much work we’ve done to progress and we’re not any closer to the front, at least here.”

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