Lewis Hamilton has a huge year ahead of him with enormous decisions to make on his future in Formula One. Many believe Hamilton will retire from the sport rather than fade away from th front of the grid as did Sebastian Vettel.
Lewis comes off the back of only his third year in the sport where he was beaten by his team mate and fair and square too. Hamilton didn’t suffer significantly more in terms of reliability or no fault on track incidents and although he recovered over the latter half of the season, Russell’s pace is there for all to see.
Hamilton down 2-0 on qualifying
The pressure on Hamilton to beat Russell this year is huge. Lewis has never been beaten twice by a team mate and with questions hanging over his future, he needs to get on top of George Russell and soon.
After the first two rounds Hamilton is 2-0 down in qualifying though he leads Russell in the drivers’ championship by 2 points before the Australian GP.
Last time out in Jeddah Hamilton was beaten hands down by Russell despite at one point the team instructing George to allow Lewis through.
Hamilton claims Russell “lucky”
A despondent Hamilton post race blamed his performance relative to George down to setup.
“There was like a 50-50 choice. I chose one way and he chose 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 than be quicker this weekend. But I’ll work hard to make sure we are in a better place next time.”
Russell 0.4s quicker than Lewis
In reality Hamilton failed to match Russell’s pace given on the second stint he had the faster medium tyre yet George was able to hold Hamilton at bay and then build a lead.
Russell was questioned about Hamilton’s comments at the drivers’ press conference in Melbourne today.
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any luck in it at all,” a dismissive Russell replied.
“I think it’s down to the preparation you put in before the event and the changes we made overnight, I knew that was going to be the right direction with the work we did with the team.”
Russell confident; Hamilton dithers
“And I believed it was going to be better than the setup that Lewis opted for.”
“So yeah, I think everybody’s got different preferences. I was happy with the direction I took and with the work I’m doing with the engineers.”
Russell’s confidence is in stark comparison to Hamilton’s confused approach, likening his setup choice to being a mere ‘toss of a coin’.
Mercedes unhappy with W14
Hamilton further admitted he dislikes intensely the W14 driver position which is baked in for the season as part of the FIA tested monocoque.
For the second F1 weekend in a row Lewis was forced to admit his “choice of words” was not the best. In Jeddah he was apologising for accusing his team of failing to listen to him in what many saw as a ‘heads must roll’ accountability rant from the British world champion.
When asked about the comments about his team mate being “lucky”, Lewis again was forced to back track.
Hamilton forced to apologise again
“I think people probably, from my choice of words at the weekend……..”
“I want to reiterate how great a job George did on the weekend,” the seven-time world champion said.
“I think the thing I was commenting on is that there’s one specific thing that you can change in the suspension that you have to do over Friday night.
“And when you make that change, once you start P3 (final practice), you can’t change it for the rest of the weekend, so when you make that change, you’re basically rolling the dice – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Russell must stand his ground
The fact was in Jeddah, George Russell was 4/10ths of a second quicker than Hamilton in qualifying which surely hurt the 7 times world champion.
And further Hamilton can’t be allowed to attribute Russell’s success to being merely down to a better setup, otherwise George would be admitting he is not as good as Lewis.
Sky F1 commentator Karen Chandhok backed Russell’s stance against his team mate.
Chandhok backs Russell
“I’m a firm believer in this sport that there’s no such thing as good luck, there is only good preparation – I think George seemed to be alluding to the fact.
“You get bad luck sometimes but the reality is that the teams have to put in the groundwork.”
“I think in Lewis’ case, he never got to a point in Jeddah where he was happy and comfortable in the car.”
Lewis criticises driver positioning in W14
Hamilton has already conceded he will have a season long battle with his W14 because the positioning of the driver is too far forward for his liking.
This causes Hamilton to feel as through he has less rear end grip than he does in reality, something key to the world champion’s driving style.
As Toto Wolff stated in Jeddah, the team cannot return to the drawing board over the monocoque because the cost of a redesign together with the FIA crash tests cannot be met within the budget cost cap without making serious in season development compromises.
Subject of Hamilton’s rant now obvious
Mercedes would prefer to spend their budget on trying out improved aero upgrades that can be slotted into the new chassis that will be next year’s design.
Hamilton’s outburst about “not being listened too” may well have been over the forward driver position in the W14
If so it will take some mental strength for Lewis to put this out of his mind each of the hundred plus times he climbs into his car over there remainder of this season.
Further, if Russell appears to be easily overcoming something Hamilton continues to struggle with, George could be be calling game, set and match by the time of the autumn fly aways as the first team mate to ever beat Hamilton twice.
Karun Chandhok on whether there is any tension between Russell and Hamilton ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/ANoqWZPOtY
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) March 30, 2023