What’s Going Wrong For Lewis Hamilton in F1 2023?

Originally a video script for WTF1 ffrom March 2023, Lewis Hamilton’s early season struggles were spoken about by Dre on video.

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Read time: 4 mins

It’s not been the best of starts to the 2023 season for seven-time World Champion, Sir Lewis Hamilton. In Saudi Arabia the former champ was comfortably out-qualified by teammate George Russell, and finished five seconds behind him in the race. During the weekend, Lewis cut a downbeat figure saying: “George did a great job, he’s right up there on the second row so the car is obviously working. I just don’t feel connected to this car. No matter what I do, no matter what I change I can’t get confidence back.”

So why is F1’s most decorated driver struggling so much?

There’s a little bit of Deja-Vu here for Hamilton and Mercedes. Last season he sacrificed a lot of development time with the Mercedes W13 to try and combat the extreme porpoising the car entered the 2022 regulations with. 

This year in Jeddah, Mercedes trackside engineer Andrew Shovlin admitted the W14 lacked stability when entering corners, and it was a trait of the car that Russell was able to handle better. Lewis admitted that when choosing a branching set-up path over the weekend, he “probably” got it wrong compared to George and that the W14 is like “driving on a knife-edge” when pushed in Qualifying trim, which might explain why Russell is 2-0 up on Saturdays so far this season, while Lewis has fared relatively better on Sundays when the car is heavier, slower and a bit more predictable. 

Hamilton spoke at length about his issues with the W14 at the start of the Australia weekend. He revealed that the area of development that he disagreed with his team over, was the seating position of the car. He said: “Our cockpit is too close to the front. When you’re driving, you feel like you’re sitting on the front wheels which is one of the worst feelings to feel when you’re driving a car. It really changes the attitude of the car and how you perceive its movement. And it makes it harder to predict, compared to when you’re further back and you’re sitting closer.” 

“On top of that, we have an aero characteristic which is too far forwards, rather than the rear is sat down as you enter, and you begin to turn, coming off the brakes, then moving rearwards, we have one that’s very forward, very much on the nose early on, and then shifts later on. So it’s doing the opposite of what we want. And that’s what we’re trying to fix.”

Although Hamilton usually prefers his cars to oversteer, he feels the W14 is far too loose for how he wants to drive an F1 car. Lewis also admitted that he shouldn’t have gone with the team’s decision to build the car this way, saying: “I listened to the team and that was the direction that they said that we should go. Had I known the feeling that I would have in it, it wouldn’t have happened. And it has to change for the future.” 

Hamilton is also facing some turmoil off-track. Lewis announced on his social media during the Jeddah weekend that he is splitting with Angela Cullen, a key member of his close circle, friend, mentor, and probably the world’s most famous physiotherapist. Lewis made the split seem amicable on Instagram, but Toto Wolff would admit that it was Lewis’ decision to part ways. Can’t have been an easy thing to deal with…. 

In any case, this all leaves Lewis in a tricky scenario. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, and Mercedes has openly admitted it might take as much as a full year to catch up to Red Bull’s knowledge in terms of this era’s aerodynamics and Toto says he could understand if Lewis wanted to leave for a more competitive team in that time span. 

But viable alternative options seem few and far between. Red Bull is a closed shop at the moment; Ferrari is committed to two much younger drivers; and Aston Martin has a plan built around Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll. Can anyone see Lawrence actually binning off his own son? Most likely, Lewis sticks around with Mercedes. His Sky Sports lie-detector test said it all, he’s prepared to wait for a chance at the eighth title he came so bitterly close to winning in 2021. The last major counting stat he doesn’t own.  

And elite athletes going into their 40s isn’t the outlier it used to be in modern sports. Fernando Alonso is having a career resurgence at 41. Kimi Raikkonen and Tennis’ Roger Federer both retired at 41. One of Hamilton’s best friends, Serena Williams, won US Open tennis matches at 40. Tom Brady won his 7th Superbowl at 42. Tiger Woods’ Masters golf comeback was at 43!

It’s more than possible Lewis can play the long game too. But he’s in a dogfight with George Russell, who will likely only get better as he enters his prime. It’s one of the closest matchups in Formula 1 right now and even if Mercedes returns to the summit, Lewis’ greatest challenge for title #8, might be the man on the other side of the garage.

But what do you think? Why is Lewis struggling? Is he stuck politically as he enters the twilight of his career? Is George Russell a genuine threat? Let us know in the comments, and if you enjoyed the video, why not subscribe? Thanks for watching!

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Leader of a Broadcast Journalism University project that went WAY out of hand. Even managed to parlay it into a WTF1 gig for a little while.

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