Why Hamilton is confident Mercedes are “set up for a much, much better” 2023 · RaceFans

To describe Lewis Hamilton’s 2022 as the ‘worst’ season of his career, while statistically accurate, speaks volumes of the immense success he has enjoyed through his 16-year stint in Formula 1.

No poles. No wins. He finished outside the top five in the championship for the first time in his career – something he managed to achieve even during his most challenging season at McLaren in 2011.

Yet, he still scored nine podiums and was in the hunt for wins a handful of times during the end of the year in a car that only won once all season – a reflection that the 38-year-old seven-times champion is still the Lewis Hamilton he’s always been known to be. So heading into a fresh start in 2023, how is he feeling about the new season and a chance to pursue a record-breaking eighth world title once again?

“I wouldn’t say I’m bullish like I was last year, I would say just more cautious,” Hamilton told media including RaceFans after Mercedes’ W14 was unveiled for the first time.

2023 Mercedes W14 - Lewis Hamilton colours
Gallery: Mercedes present new W14 F1 car for 2023 season

“Hopefully we hit the ground running, but it’s not always the case. I think we showed last year that whatever we’re faced with, we can recover. So that’s what we’ll try to do this year.”

After eight consecutive constructors’ titles and Hamilton winning six of the last eight drivers’ championships, Mercedes could have easily swallowed their 2022 as an inevitability, the ending of an unparalleled run of success that was always certain to end eventually. But that is not the Brackley mentality. Team principal Toto Wolff openly admitted his team’s performance in 2022 was unacceptable to the entire team as well as him. So now, no solution has been overlooked, no avenue unexplored in Mercedes’ pursuit of returning to the top and avoiding another humbling year like they just endured.

“I think ultimately – and it applies to everything in life and every genre job through difficult times – through failure is where you gain the most strength,” Hamilton explains. “It’s when you have to analyse and be critical of yourself and that’s for sure the time that you grow stronger.

Hamilton endured some of his worst results in 2022

“Last year was a year of strengthening for us, even though from the outside it was not a great year for us. But I think as a time we all had to dig deeper – if you look at just everyone showing their vulnerable side, everyone having to deal with the failure in their own way, but also as a team. So I do think that I’m proud of how we got through it and I’m proud of how we came together.

“I do think that it set us up for a much, much better future, because we’ve had to change things back in the factory and how we do things, and how we go about things, which I think will help us in the long run.”

Ever since Hamilton joined the team way back in 2013, Mercedes have never delivered him a ‘bad’ car at the end of a winter. But while the W13 was still comfortably quick enough to retain Mercedes’ place within the top three teams a clear step beyond the midfield it was undoubtedly still a problem child.

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Hamilton sampled the new W14 for the first time yesterday

From porpoising to its notoriously stiff and uncomfortable ride, to the lack of straight line speed relative to Red Bull, the 2022 car had a lot of problems for Mercedes to try and iron out for the new season. However, Hamilton is hopeful that the team have managed to address the W13’s faults while retaining what he saw as its biggest strength.

“The only thing that we would want to keep would be that our long run pace was very strong last year,” he says. “I think our race pace was always stronger. So I would say that’s probably the only element that we really want to carry on into this season.

“Also reliability. Those are two of the things I think that we definitely want to hold onto. But all the other stuff we want to reinvent, redesign and hopefully see a more efficient car.”

For as off the pace of their rivals as they were in the early races, Mercedes gained an impressive amount of ground to catch up to Red Bull towards the end of the year – even arguably overtaking Ferrari in the process. Hamilton remains confident that however quick the W14 is out of the box, they will once again draw more and more pace from the car as the months go by.

“There is a development plan, it’s been explained to us in detail and and I have full, full trust in the team,” says Hamilton.

“But it’s not until we get the car on the road and we figure out what it’s doing and where the limitations are can we then steer the rudder and develop in that direction. The great thing is we’ve got, I think, two strong drivers and we have similar kind of driving styles so it’ll be clear straight away, I think, if there are issues, what those would be and I think the guys understand the car much more to be able to deal with it.”

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The other “strong driver” Hamilton refers is George Russell, Hamilton’s much younger team mate who impressed many last season with how he was able to match pace with the most successful driver in Formula 1 in just his first full season at the front of the field. Mercedes only tasted victory once last season – and it was Russell who delivered it.

Hamilton has “full trust” in team’s development plan

Hamilton finishing behind his far less-experienced team mate in the standings did have something to do with the volume of experimental setups and parts he tested during those early race weekends in pursuit of a solution. However, Hamilton himself has never leant on that as an excuse. Instead, he says has spent the off season focusing on how he can do a better job as a driver in 2023.

“I think not only as a team do we have to look at ourselves as a team and how we function, but I know ultimately I’m hired by the team,” he explains. “I have to look at how I operate, how I communicate, how I’d use my time and and how I deliver results.

“So I had to continue to be very critical of myself, to be able to understand where the bar is and where the goalposts are moving all the time. How you can evolve as a driver, that’s something I’m very, very focussed on. I’ve done more simulator running than I’ve ever done for the past 18 months, more time with engineers, more going over data and just continuously looking to see how you can evolve as a driver.

“And on the other side of things, it’s the mental and the physical side of things – just continuing to try to evolve. Working with different people. I don’t want to highlight what areas, but just on the physical and mental side of things, there’s so much great research out there of how you can advance your body, how you can be more focussed, and practices that you can take into your daily life. So there’s things like that that that I’ve been working on trying to adopt. And yeah, we’ll see how that works.”

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