Lewis Hamilton believes that the next two races represent Mercedes’ “best chance” of securing a victory out of the remaining four rounds in the 2023 Formula 1 season.
Last time out at the United States Grand Prix, Hamilton mounted a late charge to fall 2.2s short of overhauling Max Verstappen for the victory, settling for second on the road.
Mercedes’ prospects in Austin were bolstered by the addition of an upgraded floor, which Hamilton described as “one of the first he’s felt over the last two years.”
Hamilton later explained that the update instilled more confidence in him to push the W14, enhancing the potential one-tenth gain the team had only originally anticipated.
“Firstly, being able to feel the upgrade is one thing,” he began. “That’s always what you’d hope they’d do but with just the way our car has been the past year, you’d add some things and not be able to feel it.
“So, rear end is the area I’ve always wanted improvements. Particularly because the lack of rear end gives a lack of confidence when attacking the corners. So the step we took there gave me the confidence to send it more and I need more!
“It was a great feeling from lap one and I think because of that, if it was a tenth upgrade I probably got two-tenths out of it through that extra confidence I was able to carry throughout the race.”
Post-race, Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc were disqualified after checks discovered their cars failed to comply with the regulations governing plank wear.
Asked how close he thinks Mercedes is to seizing a win, Hamilton replied: “We are very close, I could almost taste it at the last one.
“Honestly, if we got the strategy right at the last one I would have been a lot closer to having the win, if not having the win. But it doesn’t matter anyway as we would have been thrown out.”
Second placed Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14 in parc ferme. 22.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 19, United States Grand Prix, Austin, Texas, USA, Race Day.
Amid Mercedes’ struggles throughout this regulation cycle, Hamilton has failed to add to his record-breaking F1 win tally since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December 2021.
The 103-time grand prix victor asserts that Mercedes must avoid beginning next year on the backfoot in order to battle World Champions Red Bull from the outset.
“I can’t recall how much I miss it [winning],” Hamilton admitted.
“It’s been a couple of years and I enjoy the process and the journey I have been on with my team in terms of trying to get the car back to where we need to be.
“Naturally, at the end of the season you are going to get a bit closer if they are standing still and not developing. It’s inevitable we were going to catch them at some point, but the key is to make sure we are not 1.5 seconds slower than them at the first race of next year.”
Mercedes provided a respectable challenge to Max Verstappen in Mexico last year before securing a 1-2 finish at the penultimate round of the season in Brazil.
Hamilton believes those two events are likely to again provide the Brackley-based squad with its greatest opportunity to ensure it avoids ending this season without a win.
“It’s always difficult to say it’s going to be good here or there, but we have definitely taken a step forwards and over these next four races, I can’t predict which one, we are going to be closer,” he summarised.
“I think we were close here [Mexico] last year, so hopefully we will be a little bit closer this weekend. If we really get the strategy weekend, then maybe we can really take the fight to them.
“Brazil was a really great circuit for us last year, and if it turns out we are closer again there that is two much stronger races for us. Then when we go to Abu Dhabi the gap will open up again, so it’s these next two where I think we will have our best chance.”