Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is convinced that Lewis Hamilton will have a chance to clinch a record eighth world championship in the future, despite the current dominance of Formula 1 by Max Verstappen and Red Bull.
Mercedes claimed eight back-to-back constructors championships from 2014 to 2021 with Hamilton winning the drivers title on six of those occasions. He missed out to team mate Nico Rosberg in 2016 and controversially to Verstappen in 2021.
Last season was the first in his F1 career that Hamilton failed to win a race all season. And with Red Bull winning all but one Grand Prix in 2023, it was the same again in this year's campaign.
His last win was in Saudi Arabia in 2021, although team mate George Russell took victory in the 2022 Brazilian GP. But Wolff is convinced that the team is on course to give its drivers an improved car able to battle for wins and titles.
“If we are able to give him a car, he will be fighting for a world championship, I have no doubt," he told the media after the season finale in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Hamilton had a torrid time at Yas Martin, missing the cut at the end of the second round of qualifying leaving him lining up in 11th place ohe grid, and struggling to push his way to ninth in the race by the chequered flag.
"For whatever reasons we have this it’s difficult to have the car in a sweet spot. You’ve seen that with Carlos, who never was never there this weekend, and the same with Lewis," Wolff said, comparing to Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.
“From Lewis’s perspective, he had a bad weekend. Fact,” Wolff acknowledged. "But I think that doesn’t do anything to do with him being the greatest driver in the world.
“It’s clear that when you have a F1 car like we have now, you are never at ease with it,” he continued. “You have good weekend and bad weekends.
"But every time when we’ve seen that Lewis has somebody in his target in front of him and it's about winning the race, then the real Lewis comes alive. We just need to give him a car [that's strong enough]."
Despite the problems the team have encountered with the W14, Russell performed better in the same car this week and fought valiantly to secure a podium in Abu Dhabi - and with it, secure Mercedes the constructors' runners-up spot.
The race was dominated by Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, but in the final laps Red Bull's Sergio Perez passed Russell for the final podium position. That would have put Ferrari ahead in the final championship standings.
But despite some last minute co-operation between Leclerc and Perez, Russell stayed close enough to that a subsequent five second post-race penalty for the Red Bull dropped Perez back to P4 and gave the podium back to Russell.
With it came P2 in the constructors standings, making Mercedes the 'best ohe rest' after Red Bull this season with the prestige of that achievement more significant even than the extra prize money attached to it.
“We came to this weekend a little bit on the back foot when you saw Ferrari’s performances in the last few races," said Wolff. “Then you have the two guys fighting in the front. Two great teams and brands that fought until the end.
"It was a fight for P2 in the constructor's championship up until the very end and so close and today feels like we've won, George's driving was exceptional," he added. "His drive was impeccable, also in managing the gaps at the end.”
"The fight for P2 in the constructor's in a way was so positive for us and a huge reward for the whole team to be vice champion, but it's also a big motivation to do better next year. And that's what we will focus on now.
After Russell ended the season as the more 'in-form' driver at Abu Dhabi, the looming question is what will happen when Mercedes does deliver a race-winning car, and whether their drivers can continue to work together harmoniously.