- The 2023 F1 season made Lewis Hamilton doubt his racing abilities
- Hamilton openly talked about the challenges faced during a season marked by the absence of victories
- The genesis of Hamilton’s tribulations lies in Mercedes’ decision to persist with their unique car design
The 2023 F1 season made Lewis Hamilton doubt his racing abilities; he opened up on a rocky year that tested his will and skill.
Admitting moments of self-doubt, Hamilton openly talked about the challenges faced during a season marked by the absence of victories, a stark departure from his storied career.
“When you have difficult seasons like this, there are always going to be moments when you’re like: ‘Is it me, or is it the car? Do you still have it? Has it gone?’” he told BBC in an exclusive interview.
The genesis of Hamilton’s tribulations lies in Mercedes’ decision to persist with their unique car design philosophy. This is a choice contrary to his preferences and the broader trend in the Formula 1 landscape.
Lewis Hamilton 2023 F1 Season
As a seasoned driver with a keen understanding of the intricate relationship between man and machine, Hamilton sensed the mistake during the early test drives.
This set the tone for a challenging season despite expressing his concerns as early as February 2023. His W14 Mercedes exhibited issues during testing and this marked the start of a series frustration on the tracks.
The Silver Arrows found themselves on the losing end during the first race in Bahrain as a starter. The frustrations mounted as Hamilton’s requested changes went unaddressed, prompting extensive discussions with the team.
“In February, when we do a download of where the car is going, I was a little more apprehensive, because the previous year it was like: ‘The car is amazing, it’s unique, no-one’s going to have anything like it.’ And then we get to the first test.
“So, I was a little bit more cautious when I was listening, and I was like: ‘We will see.’ And then the car had all these problems. I just knew it was going to be a long year,” he recalls.
An absence of a clear direction which he refers to as ‘North Star’ at the beginning of the season left the team grappling with uncertainties. The ripple effect of all this was hurdling progress for Mercedes this season.
He likens his efforts to win another championship this season akin to navigating a zig-zag path.
Did F1 Cost Cap Affect Mercedes in the 2023 F1 Season?
Unlike competitors like McLaren, Mercedes found themselves constrained by the cost cap, preventing fundamental modifications needed to enhance the car’s performance.
Mercedes found themselves in a difficult situation this year as a result of realizing that the necessary adjustments to the car’s architecture would not be achievable within the constraints of the $135 million cost cap.
The German automobile manufacturer had to develop a 2024 car without being able to test some of the main aerodynamic ideas on track.
This is in contrast to McLaren, who made huge strides with a redesign in the summer. Still, he is confident that Silver Arrows finally has a ‘North Star’ which they haven’t had in the last two seasons.
“I do believe we have a North Star now which I don’t think we’ve had for two years. But still getting there is not a straight line,” he stated.
Hamilton remains cautiously hopeful about the future, acknowledging a newfound understanding of the car and the development of essential tools in the background.
The complexity of the journey is magnified by the team’s dwindling confidence and the challenge of closing a significant performance gap.
Mercedes Internal Changes
Beyond the struggles on the track, the Mercedes team witnessed internal changes at the highest levels. The departure of technical director Mike Elliott and the return of James Allison to a frontline role marked a shift in leadership and responsibility within the team.
Hamilton clarifies that Elliott’s departure was a collective decision. Further, negotiating a new two-year contract in the midst of the challenging season, Hamilton reaffirms his faith in Mercedes.
He dismissed speculations about a potential departure as reports have had it for a while. The British driver remains motivated by a multifaceted drive, including the pursuit of an eighth world title and efforts to improve diversity in motorsport through his Mission 44 foundation.