Leading Mercedes engineer Andrew Shovlin has admitted that Lewis Hamilton pushed the W13 a “little too much” during the weekend in Saudi Arabia.
This was the first time since 2008 that Hamilton was eliminated on the basis of time alone. It was also the first time in 5 years that he failed to make it out of Q1.
The withdrawal of Mick Schumacher meant he started the race in 15th position. Although he did find himself in 6th spot pretty early in the race, he had to settle for a P10 at the finish line.
It has been a difficult start to the season for Hamilton, who will be the first to admit that he got lucky in the season opener in Bahrain to notch a podium finish.
He already sits 29 points behind Charles Leclerc in the drivers’ championship.
The Silver Arrows have, in general, seemed far from their dominant selves so far this season.
Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin admitted that his team might’ve tried to push a little too far to bridge the gap between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Tried too hard to bridge the gap
“So, we are always exploring the setup with Lewis, trying to find a direction that delivers performance and we’d found a good direction from Friday into Saturday that he was able to try in the third practice session,” Shovlin said.
“We went quite a bit further on that into the qualifying session, but ultimately it was a bit too far.
“So, from the word go, he was lacking rear grip, Jeddah is a street circuit that you need a lot of confidence, it’s very fast, the walls are very close and when you haven’t got the rear grip, the driver can’t have that confidence.”
New Mercedes driver Russell will leave Saudi Arabia far happier, having performed better than Hamilton both in qualifying and the main event.
However, the current Mercedes W13 seems way off the pace if it intends to challenge for the title. Shovlin himself admitted that the team will need to address these problems swiftly to ensure the gap doesn’t widen too much.
“Fundamentally though the problem right now is the car is not fast enough and unless we get it perfect, we are going to be at risk in those sessions,” he said.
“So, we need to make a quicker car as soon as possible.”