Lewis Hamilton claims a specific problem is undermining his attempts to get on top of Mercedes’ 2023 Formula 1 car.
Following a winless campaign last season, Hamilton was hopeful the German manufacturer would make a breakthrough to elevate him back into title contention this year.
However, the seven-time World Champion has endured a frustrating opening to the new campaign, with Mercedes’ retained zero sidepod car concept lacking the competitiveness to challenge the dominant might of the Red Bull RB19.
Having professed during the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend that he was lacking confidence in the car, Hamilton admits more rear downforce would inspire an immediate upturn.
But the British driver has revealed there is a distinct detail on this year’s Mercedes car that is making it increasingly challenging for him to adapt.
“We’re a long way down on downforce,” Hamilton clarified. “So we’ve got to pick up the rear end downforce particularly.
“The more rear we gain, the more stable the rear becomes, and the more confident I’ll be able to attack.
“But I think in general, just this car, even if we do change that, there’s a specific thing with something on the car that I have never had before.
“It’s a position I’ve not had in previous years’ cars. For me, it’s the thing that is making me uncomfortable. I’ve just got to work hard to make sure it is changed,” he added.
While Hamilton has performed stronger on race days in 2023, the Brit has largely struggled in qualifying in comparison to his Mercedes team-mate.
George Russell beat Hamilton by four-tenths in Q3 in Saudi Arabia after narrowly retaining the edge over a single lap at the first weekend in Bahrain.
Such a hefty deficit resulted in Hamilton conceding on Saturday night that Russell is currently able to extract more performance out of the troublesome W14 than he can.
Speaking after Sunday’s race, the 103-time F1 race winner has affirmed the issue arises more when he attempts to push the car on minimal fuel runs.
“It’s on a massive knife edge when you’re above about 95%,” he said. “But when you’re in a race stint, it’s much more controllable and predictable.
“I still don’t have the confidence in the race, but I’m doing the best I can with it.”
Mercedes chief Toto Wolff has explained that the team is aware of the concern that is hampering Hamilton’s speed in qualifying.
However, he says it is not something that can be addressed quickly.
“We have a fundamental issue he’s not happy with, and that is linked to the way he feels the rear end of the car,” Wolff told Motorsport.com.
“That’s not something that can be cured quickly. The drivers are the most important sensors in the car and if they tell us that’s what they feel, we need to consider that.”
Hamilton has registered two top-five finishes so far this season to sit fifth in the Drivers’ standings, two points ahead of his team-mate.
However, the ex-McLaren driver is already 24 points behind arch-rival Max Verstappen, speculating on Sunday that the Dutchman’s 2023 machine is better than any car he drove during the height of Mercedes’ domination of the sport.