Lewis Hamilton Believes Mercedes Is "a Long Way Off"
Although the team eventually rallied to win a race, the 2022 was a disaster by Mercedes AMG F1 standards. Last season's car, the W13, had major problems with porpoising and could not match either Ferrari or Red Bull on pace during the season's early races. The result was the first year since the introduction of the turbocharged V-6 hybrid formula that the team did not win the constructor's championship, and the first in that span that Lewis Hamilton did not spend the year fighting for a championship. Given how poorly that season went, Hamilton's comments about the team's progress over the offseason are alarming.
Hamilton spoke to the media after today's two practice sessions for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. In those sessions, Hamilton told reporters the car was "a long way off" what Red Bull was capable of, noting that Verstappen's team were "a second a lap faster" in comparable long runs. That backs up the results from those sessions, where Hamilton and teammate George Russell did not impress.
These early worries do not mean Mercedes is already done for the season. These quotes are traditional at the start of any season, an exercise in expectation management that leaves teams with room to improve. Even drivers from overperforming teams like Aston Martin will downplay any real hopes of improvement in post-testing quotes. The concern for Mercedes is less where they stand now and more the lack of tangible progress over a full offseason with its zero sidepod concept, which they had evolved into a race winner and had hoped would allow the team to fight for a title this season. Hamilton is specifically pessimistic about it, saying that "it's quite hard [to close a gap to Red Bull] with the concept we have."
In the coming weeks and months, Mercedes will need to either find a way to win with what they have or abandon it for a concept in the vein of what Red Bull won with last season. If they fail to do either, their hopes of winning the driver's and constructor's championships will disappear just a handful of races into the season.
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