Hamilton: Mercedes working to “challenge from day one” in 2024

Lewis Hamilton executed a near-flawless weekend at the Spanish GP, optimising the W14’s performance in qualifying and race to secure his second podium of 2023. Looking ahead, the 38-year-old wants this year to become a foundation for next season.

Mercedes started this year in poor fashion at the Bahrain GP, with customer team Aston Martin proving a faster and more complete package in Sakhir.

Since then, Mercedes has re-assigned James Allison to the role of technical director, changed its sidepod concept and pursued a different philosophy for its development under these regulations.

The first major updates for the W14 made their debut in Monaco, but the Circuit de Barcelona has provided a better indication of where the Silver Arrows are.

Speaking post-race, Hamilton explained the team’s objectives:

“With the current car that we have, I don’t think we’ll be matching their performance, but we’re working on improving the car.

“So, with the current package, we’re limited to the pace that we had today, but I think there’s a huge amount of work, studying and improvement that we hope we’ll have coming in the future.

“Naturally, they should also be progressing through the year, so we need to be taking big chunks out of them with every step we take.

“I’m more focused on making sure next year we have the car to challenge them from day one.

“And the further we continue to push this car this year, the more that impacts next year also, in some ways.”

Hamilton recognises that catching Red Bull this year will be immensely difficult, and the gap Red Bull has in the standings gives them enough of a buffer in the event Mercedes matches their pace.

The Brackley-based squad must find the delicate balance between developing the W14 and understanding its potential – whilst also ensuring they do not compromise their start to the 2024 season.

Mercedes W14, Lewis Hamilton - Red Bull RB19, Max Verstappen.

Mercedes will be eager to start the next campaign on the front foot rather than playing catch-up again.

Budget cap constraints and wind tunnel restrictions make this balancing act difficult, but it is one the Silver Arrows must navigate.

Amidst these obstacles, Hamilton is aware that understanding this new development path is paramount:

“But the more we learn about this car also, that also sets us in the right direction [for 2024]. It’s about trying to find the right balance.

“They’re so far ahead, and ultimately Max will continue to win this year – that means they can start on their development for next year sooner than anyone else…

“So, we’ve just got to keep working hard but also try to get the right balance.”

Although the priority at Mercedes is to hunt down Red Bull, it would be premature to ignore the threat that Aston Martin poses with the AMR23.

Fernando Alonso is still ahead of both Mercedes drivers in the standings, with the Spanish GP representing an uncharacteristically poor event in terms of his performance relative to the Silver Arrows.

Scheduled upgrades in Canada and Britain will be Aston’s most substantial of this year’s campaign and could offset some of the W14’s most recent gains.

Still, the driver combination of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell – unless there is a significant change in the pecking order – looks to be enough to secure second in the standings.

As such, the area of concern is not necessarily the standings but instead the gap in performance between Red Bull and the chasing pack.

From a neutral perspective, there is plenty of hope that Hamilton and Alonso will have the necessary machinery to fight for victories in the foreseeable future.

Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang