Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes didn’t follow his advice regarding improvements to its Formula 1 car.
Mercedes made a radical change ahead of the 2022 F1 season after winning eight consecutive constructor’s championships. That change didn’t pay off. The seven-time champion and winningest driver in F1 history didn’t win a race over the season for the first time in his career and the team finished third in the constructor’s standings to Red Bull and Ferrari.
Mercedes kept a similar concept for its 2023 car and hasn’t made the big gains it was hoping for. Hamilton finished fifth in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix and his teammate, George Russell, was seventh. Not only did Red Bull and Ferrari drivers finish ahead of Hamilton and Russell, but Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso finished third and his teammate, Lance Stroll, was sixth.
Hamilton told the BBC’s Chequered Flag podcast this week that he knew what he needed from his Mercedes, but the team didn’t listen to his suggestions for what tweaks should be made ahead of 2023.
“Last year, there were things I told them. I said the issues that are with the car,” Hamilton said in post-race comments aired on the podcast. “I’ve driven so many cars in my life. I know what a car needs. I know what a car doesn’t need.”
Hamilton’s current 25-race winless streak is the longest of his career. He last won in Saudi Arabia in 2021.
“I think it’s really about accountability,” he also said on the podcast. "It’s about owning up and saying, ‘Yeah, you know what? We didn’t listen to you. It’s not where it needs to be and we’ve got to work.'"
Mercedes established itself as the dominant team in F1 after Hamilton joined the team in 2013. The team easily won the constructor’s title every season from 2014-21, and Hamilton won the driver’s title in six of those seasons. He was beaten by teammate Nico Rosberg in 2016 and by Max Verstappen in a controversially officiated finish in the final race of the 2021 season.
With new F1 car rules implemented ahead of the 2022 season, Mercedes went with a skinnier car design than many of its rivals. The car’s side pods are much slimmer than those of the Ferrari and Red Bull, and that design hasn’t worked out the way Mercedes hoped. Any downforce gains the team made in 2022 were countered by additional drag and a lack of straight-line speed. Russell scored Mercedes’ only win of the season in the penultimate race of 2022.
Instead of completely scrapping the skinny side pod idea for 2023, Mercedes tried to improve it. And the team still has a lot of work to do.
“It was one of our worst days in racing,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said after the Bahrain Grand Prix. “It was not good at all; we are lacking pace front, right and center. The Aston Martins are very fast and the Red Bull is just on a different planet. It hurts they are so far ahead; it reminds me of our best years where we put one second on everyone else. That is the benchmark. We need to put one foot in front of the other to come back, but nobody in this team will throw in the towel.”
In a video released Thursday, Mercedes engineering director Andrew Shovlin said that fans would see "visible changes" to the car in the coming weeks.