Hamilton: Hungary pole 'gave us hope we could catch Red Bull'

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Lewis Hamilton has been reflecting on the 2023 season, his second successive campaign without a win and which he was surprised to see Mercedes manage to finish as runners-up in the constructors championship.

Hamilton won six of this titles in a golden age for Mercedes between 2014 and 2020 after the introduction of new hybrid engines, but hasn't tasted victory since the dramatic 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi.

New aerodynamic rules introduced at the start of the season saw Mercedes struggle with 'porpoising', and while that's now largely resolved the team remains firmly on the back foot compared to Red Bull.

In fact, Hamilton admitted that he hadn't even expected them to be in the running for P2 against Ferrari, and that it was taking pole for the Hungarian GP just before the summer break that had given the team renewed optimism.

“When I drove the car for the first time in February, I never thought it was possible to achieve a pole," he admitted.

“I think Budapest was the best moment of the year," he said. “It gave us hope and the feeling that if we kept pushing, we would reach their level.

"[It's] a circuit that I love in which somehow we were able to dethrone the Red Bulls at a specific moment,” he remembered.

A revised floor introduced for the United States GP was another major moment in Mercedes' resurgence. “With the improvement we made in Austin, with a couple more laps, we would have been in contention to fight for victory.

“This shows that we are turning this car, little by little, into a competitive machine," he insisted. "It's becoming a more pleasant car to drive, and is in a position where you can look more forward than behind.

“The progress has been positive. But it's still not a car capable of winning races and that is what we have to change our face to 2024."

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 at a team photograph. 23.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 23, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Preparation Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

With the team having already dispensed with its 'zero sidepod' design approach, engineers at Brackley are working flat-out to bring a brand new car to the grid in time for testing at Bahrain in February.

Hamilton said that the team would be “changing every component” for the successor to the unloved W14, but won't know how successful they've been until the car lines up alongside their rivals for the season opener.

“The dream is that when February starts next year, the car is not a replica of the 2023 car and feels the same<" he said. "I'm sure that will not be the case.”As well as helping Mercedes to secure the runners-up spot in the team battle, Hamilton also finished as 'best of the rest' in the drivers championship in P3 behind Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.He was 28 points ahead of Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc who were tied in the final standings. He was also 59 points five places ahead of his own team mate George Russell.Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter