‘I believe we have a North Star now’ – Hamilton hopeful of Mercedes improvement in 2024 despite challenges
Lewis Hamilton has expressed confidence that Mercedes will be in a stronger position next season after their recent struggles, though admits “I’m not going to hold my breath” until the team’s new car hits the track.
Mercedes made a sublime start to F1’s turbo-hybrid era in 2014, stringing together eight consecutive constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ titles – six for Hamilton and one for former team mate Nico Rosberg.
However, a new ground effect ruleset introduced for 2022 stopped the Silver Arrows in their tracks as a bold ‘zero-sidepod’ approach failed to deliver and was eventually scrapped in favour of a more conventional design.
Despite that change, the outfit have claimed just one victory in two years, with Red Bull taking their place at the head of the field and dominantly delivering two successive double title-winning campaigns.
However, speaking in an end-of-season interview with BBC Sport, Hamilton shared his hope that Mercedes can soon get back to their best, stating: “I do believe we have a North Star now, which I don’t think we’ve had for two years.
“But still getting there is not a straight line. And there were just certain things, decisions that have been made, that just left you blocked at the end of a road, and you can’t do anything because of the cost cap and all these different things.
“If you look at the Red Bull – and they have done an amazing job – from Bahrain last year, they had a bouncing issue and they fixed it that week. And then you can imagine, if you’re trying to build a wall, they are one brick after the other, just development, development, development.
“Maybe they added something and it didn’t add performance. But they were still building. Whereas for us, we had to knock down the wall, if you like, in terms of aero.
“We had a lot of aero on that first car last year. We had to basically knock a ton of downforce off it and then slowly try to add. But every time we tried to add, it was worse. So, we just didn’t improve for a long, long, long time.”
Hamilton added that there will be plenty of lessons Mercedes can apply from the last two seasons when working on their new challenger, though still admitted to some lingering personal and collective doubts.
“I think we understand the car so much better,” he commented. “They have developed great tools in the background. So, naturally, I’m hopeful. But I’m not going to hold my breath.
“You can imagine they are also nervous of making too big a change and it being the wrong one. And we have higher targets than ever before because we’ve got a massive gap to close. That makes it really tricky.”
While Mercedes have fallen away from title contention in recent seasons, they still managed to record a P3 finish in the 2022 constructors’ standings, followed by the runner-up spot in 2023 via a close battle with Ferrari.