Lewis Hamilton was unhappy with the Mercedes W14’s handling in Brazil, as he struggled to match the front-runners.
Mercedes entered the Brazilian GP weekend with plenty of optimism. Having taken victory at Interlagos last season (and after showing race-winning pace in COTA), the Silver Arrows were predicted to perform well this weekend.
However, the first two days in Brazil haven’t been very promising. Friday qualifying was reasonable – nothing more or less – with the German team missing out in the mixed weather conditions.
On Saturday, in the Sprint shootout, a clear vulnerability was exposed. Despite Lewis Hamilton and George Russell being one-tenth up on Lando Norris’ fastest middle sector, the Mercedes duo missed out massively in Sector 3. The loss was 3-4 tenths, a reminder of the significant drag on the W14.
This was an issue early in the season and seems to have resurfaced at Interlagos. Perhaps a lack of time to adjust the setup is the explanation, but it remains a notable weakness regardless.
A more pressing issue emerged in the Sprint Race, where Mercedes struggled with notable tyre wear. This is a surprise for the Brackley-based team, given tyre management is typically a strength. Even the Ferrari SF-23, notorious for excessive tyre wear, seemed better equipped over the 24-lap Sprint.
Hamilton unhappy with the W14
Speaking after the session, Lewis Hamilton was blunt in describing his experience:
“It was horrible. It was not enjoyable whatsoever,” he told Sky Sports.
“I had a good start and then just struggled with the balance. A lot of understeer, snaps of oversteer, and I was just fighting the car from very early on.
“Then I had no tyres in the end. I don’t really know how I’m going to fix that.”
Today’s race will be an intense affair, with several teams capable of strong performance. Aston Martin’s return to form – alongside the emergence of AlphaTauri – will further complicate the Brazilian GP for Mercedes.
Yesterday proved how easily DRS trains can form, so securing a strong position after lap one will be crucial. Looking ahead to next year, Toto Wolff’s team must ensure they learn from their weaknesses – to prevent them from reappearing in 2024.
Hamilton commented on the improved handling of the W14 in Austin, which was his biggest critique early in the season. However, yesterday proved how easily this generation of F1 cars can move away from its ideal operating window.