Hamilton: Set-up choice meant “I could only match” Russell’s pace

Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes W14

Lewis Hamilton believes that the set-up of his W14 in Jeddah was a limiting factor to his performance compared to teammate George Russell.

The 7-time Champion had a difficult qualifying session, setting a lap almost four-tenths slower than his teammate in Q3 and complicating his prospects for the Grand Prix.

After a difficult first stint on the hard tyres, where Hamilton told the team about a lack of grip, he passed Sainz quickly after the restart and showed promising pace on the mediums.

However, after catching George Russell, the 38-year-old was unable to overtake – with his young teammate insistent that swapping positions would compromise both Mercedes drivers.

George Russell - Mercedes W14
2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Friday – Jiri Krenek

Neither of the W14s made significant progress after this, with the German team setting for 4th and 5th place finishes.

Speaking with Sky Sports post-race, Hamilton gave a review of his race weekend:

“We got some great points as a team, George got third [which became 4th after Alonso’s penalty was removed], which is amazing.

“I went forward, which is always the hope – that you can at least go forward and put one foot in front of the other.

“So I’m really grateful to come from seventh to fifth. Strategy just didn’t really work out for me; set-up was a bit off. 

“I think if I had the set-up George had, I would have been in a better position, but yeah – lots to work on, but there are positives to take away.”

When asked to elaborate on his set-up choice, Hamilton explained the process at Mercedes:

“On set-up, yeah, we work on that. It’s just there was a 50-50 choice. I chose one way, he went another. More often than not, the way he went is the wrong one – but it just happened to work. 

“So I could only match his pace, rather than be quicker this weekend. But I’ll work hard to make sure that we’re in a better place.”

Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes W14

The issue of set-up was mentioned on several occasions throughout 2022, as Mercedes tried a variety of different configurations to optimize their package.

Considering that Toto Wolff has already outlined that Mercedes will change its direction, it seems unlikely that either driver will be instructed to run certain set-ups.

Hamilton’s description suggests that both drivers are free to select their set-up, with the 7-time Champion attributing Russell’s preferable selection to chance: “It just happened to work” , being the key quote here.

It goes without saying that George Russell’s performance in Jeddah was very strong.

Even if his set-up was better suited to the 27-turn circuit, the 25-year-old should be credited with pursuing the right direction.

In any case, Russell seemed to extract everything from his W14 throughout the weekend, rebounding from a difficult first race of the season in Bahrain.

Although Mercedes will take some positives from outperforming both Ferraris last weekend, the pace shown by Aston Martin and Red Bull will force the Brackley team to make significant improvements.

The Mercedes duo were already quite evenly matched last season, and this fierce inter-team rivalry will almost certainly continue.

This is to be expected amongst two highly-talented drivers – irrespective of the W14’s competitiveness – although it remains an important talking point for fans and media alike.