Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and his team are under a “huge amount” of pressure to ensure that the team’s 2024 Formula 1 car delivers next year, says Lewis Hamilton.
Off the back of a winless campaign for the German manufacturer, the Brackley-based squad is pinning hopes of a revival on an all-new car concept for its 2024 W15 challenger.
But seven-time world champion Hamilton suggests there is little room for manoeuvre in Mercedes getting it wrong for a third time in the new ground effect era, which has served to ramp up the demands on the squad and its boss.
In an interview with selected media including Motorsport.com, Hamilton said that everyone at his team was feeling it ahead of what is a critical winter in ensuring its 2024 car is competitive.
Asked how much pressure team boss Toto Wolff was under, Hamilton said: “A huge amount for sure. Not just Toto but globally, all of us. Everyone back at the factory, a huge amount of pressure on them.
“Ultimately, as a boss like Toto, you have to start leaning on people more rather than backing off on them. And how you do that is not easy, as people break at a certain point.
“So how do you do it in a constructive way, in a way that’s inspiring them to continue?
“For me, hopefully some of the race results and drives that I’ve been able to put in, I like to think that sparks inspiration for the guys: like ‘oh we’re almost there’, and that trickles down through the whole system.”
Hamilton acknowledged that Mercedes has struggled to find direction with its car over the past two seasons – saying that it lacked a clear development direction.
“We didn't have a North Star necessarily at the beginning of the year, knowing exactly where we needed to work towards,” he said.
“And it's been kind of a zigzag line trying to frickin’ get to where we need to be. Every now and then something positive happens, you're like, 'Okay, that's it.' And then it shifts, so the goalpost is always moving, which is typical.”
However, off the back of this year’s infrastructure changes that included the return of technical director James Allison to frontline duties, and a switch of car concept, Hamilton is far more encouraged now.
“Yes, I do believe we have a North Star now, which I don't think we've had for two years,” he said. “But still getting there is not a straight line.
“There were just certain things, decisions that have been made, that just left you blocked at the end of a road, and you can't do anything, because of the cost cap and all these different things.
“If you look at the Red Bull, and they've done an amazing job, but from Bahrain last year, they had a bouncing issue and fixed it that week.
“It is like if you're trying to build a wall. It was one brick after the other: brick, brick, brick. Just development, development, development.
“Maybe they added something, and it didn't add performance, but they were still building.
“For us, we had to knock down the wall. We had a lot of aero on that first car last year, but we had to basically knock a ton of downforce off it and then slowly tried to add it. But every time we tried to add it, it was worse. We just didn't improve for a long, long, long time.
“So, you can imagine they [Red Bull] are progressing. And we're going like this [he indicated a near flat line] Then eventually, it's slowly coming up while they're continuing.
“That gap... We are just on massively different trajectories. But I think we understand the car so much better now. We have developed great tools in the background.
“So naturally, I'm hopeful. But I'm not going to hold my breath.”