IF Mercedes are serious about catching Ferrari and Red Bull, they must ignore Lewis Hamilton’s plea to stop using him as their guinea pig.
Until now, Hamilton’s position this season has been compromised as Mercedes play a balancing act of splitting their cars’ set-up between the seven-time world champion and his team-mate George Russell.Mercedes have arguably been held back by trying to balance the needs of their two British drivers, Lewis Hamilton and George Russell[/caption]
Normally, there is a preferred direction of progress. In layman’s terms, start at a particular point with the design and make small changes to see if the car’s performance improves.
There is a feeling — but not confirmed by Mercedes — that Russell has been getting the preferred set-up and Hamilton has been sacrificed in the hope his experience helps the team unlock the potential of his car.
Hamilton said in Canada: “We tried two different avenues and the avenue I was down was dreadful.”
Having witnessed Hamilton’s feedback first-hand during a behind-the-scenes trip to Mercedes’ Brackley HQ last year, it is understandable the team call on his help.
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But he is not exactly happy and no longer wants to play the role of the sacrificial lamb.
After his third place in Montreal, he had a taste of the champagne and, with the British GP up next, now wants more, which could pose a problem.
He said: “Maybe in the second half of the season George can do the experiments! We’re just trying to work. We’re just trying to progress as a team.
“Moving forward, we’ll be a little bit more cautious on doing too many experiments as it really does hinder you through the weekend, especially if you only have practice one and two in the dry.
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“I really hope, moving to Silverstone . . . it’s such an important race for us and for me, so I really hope that . . . I just want to be in a battle.”
Hamilton’s desire is understandable as he chases a record of winning at least once in each of his 15 seasons in F1.
This year’s struggles with the bouncing, and a lower top speed than their rivals, pose the biggest threat to achieving that feat.
But if Mercedes are serious about sticking with their current car design philosophy, then they must shelve any emotional comments from their driver.
Boss Toto Wolff knows they need to press on with their development and Hamilton is the best man for the job.
It might be a tough decision but they simply have to stick with him trying the alternative car set-up for any chance of catching the leaders.
Wolff believes the team have much work still to do to narrow the gap with their rivals, despite Hamilton’s third in Canada.
He said: “One swallow doesn’t make a summer.
“We saw that swallow in Barcelona but somehow it flew somewhere else.
“We need to be careful. There is so much work we need to do in order to be back at the front and we are not yet there.”
CASE FER DEBATE
SPARE a thought for poor old Fernando Alonso, who was a little delusional after going from second on the grid to finishing ninth in Montreal.
The Spaniard had promised to fight pole-sitter Max Verstappen for the lead into Turn One — which he did not.
He then sank like a stone before being told to stay behind his Alpine team-mate, Esteban Ocon.
Despite claiming to be a “hundred times faster” than Ocon all weekend, Alonso then claims he had a faulty engine.
He moaned: “It’s another reliability issue on car No 14 only. That’s disappointing.
“We didn’t finish on the podium because we had a reliability issue on car 14.”
OK, Fernando. We get the point . . . but I am not too sure “reliability” is to blame for the five-second penalty you received for weaving.