Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes needs to improve its raw performance but says the team has a good base to work from after it made progress on the final day of pre-season testing in Bahrain.
The new W14 retains the narrow sidepods design that Mercedes carried in 2022, but the opening day of testing suggested it had successfully addressed its porpoising issues from last year. Day two was a struggle, however, as the team was battling poor handling, leading Hamilton to describe the test as “difficult”, before heading out in the final session and going second fastest to end on a higher note.
“It’s been an interesting few days,” Hamilton said. “It’s never easy, there’s been a lot of discovery. I think the thing I’ve been most impressed with is this is my 11th year with the team, and everyone’s turned up with the same mentality, working hard, no-one’s been complacent. We realize that we have a mountain to climb and no-one’s fussed, everyone’s just kept their heads down.
“I’m really proud of that. Everyone in the garage, everyone back here and I know everyone back at the factory will be churning through all this data and pushing on. Reliability has generally been good – obviously we had a stop (on Friday) but generally it has been relatively good.
“And at the end there it’s always nice when the track gets a bit cooler and you put on the softer tires and see the steps between them all. We’re not quite where we want to be, but it’s a good platform to start from.”
While the porpoising has effectively disappeared, a lack of straight line speed is another area Hamilton feels Mercedes needs to make improvements.
“It was (a concern) last year and it is a little bit this year. Bouncing has gone, sometimes it occurs a little bit but most of the time it’s not there. So it’s just a beautiful world to be in when it’s not bouncing so you can actually see the road ahead, and better for the body. But we do have some pace to pick up in a straight line.”
And the seven-time world champion says Mercedes is in a much more positive frame of mind as a team compared to the same point in 2022, even if it feels it is still third to Red Bull and Ferrari in the pecking order.
“Oh god, I think everyone was just distraught at the end of the first test last year! None of us knew what was happening with the bouncing, where it came from – we hadn’t seen it in the wind tunnel. We were meant to bring a 1.5-second upgrade and we couldn’t use it.
“So that was difficult and I think everyone left here with their head in their hands. But we got over it and we pushed through and had an amazing year of hustling and everyone grafting. This year we have some things we need to work on, it’s still not perfect and we are still not able to match the Red Bulls currently, or the Ferraris maybe, but it is better.
“There are things that have changed, the bouncing has gone, and there are a couple of elements that have been better so far. Who knows where we will be next week? We’ve just got to stay positive, we’ve got to manifest what we want and just got to continue to push and that’s what we live for.”