Mercedes set-up experiment 'backfires' on Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15 runs wide. 22.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Moy / XPB Images
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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that an experiment with different set-ups on the cars of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell had backfired on them in Friday's practice sessions in Melbourne.

“In the second session [we went] through a really quite dramatic set-up change on Lewis’ [car] and that has massively backfired,” he told Sky Sports F1 in the paddock at Albert Park. “But this is why we have those sessions.

"We were lacking performance," Wolff admitted after Hamilton ended the session 18th fastest of the 19 cars taking part. "I think on a single lap, if he finished that lap we’re a bit better, but overall it wasn’t a good day.

“If I said I wasn't frustrated, it would be not the truth,” he said. “Certainly we are, because we’re trying so much in all directions but don’t seem to have found that silver bullet yet which helps us to get us in the right direction.

“But we’ve got to keep trying," he added. "I don’t want to go back and say we’re just not good in these regulations, because we have everything we need in order to get on top of that - and we will!”

"We had a good FP1 session," contributed Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes' director of trackside engineering. "The changes we made to improve our high-speed cornering performance and reduce the bouncing after Saudi Arabia seemed to be a good step in the right direction.

"Overall the car was feeling quite good," he insisted. "Unfortunately, FP2 wasn't as strong. Lewis felt we'd gone in the wrong direction with our changes [but] they weren't quick to unwind so he had to live with it throughout the session."

Toto Wolff (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 Shareholder and Executive Director. 09.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 2, Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

"It didn't feel great out there today," was Hamilton's verdict from the cockpit. "We began the day on the front foot and in FP1 the car generally felt good. The first run was actually the best the car has felt so far this year.

"To continue our learning, we made some big changes into FP2, and unfortunately that made the car worse. It was tough but there are positives we can take from the first session and we'll be working hard overnight to make improvements."

Hamilton's team mate George Russell had a better time of it. After he was third quickest at the end of FP1, he was still in the top six by the end of the afternoon but admitted there had been a couple of close calls on the way.

"We were pushing the limits today and I had a few moments out there!" he said after the end of the day's sessions. "It was all under control in the end though.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15. 22.03.2024. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Practice Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Bearne / XPB Images

"I was on for a really good lap on my last push on the soft tyre, but just ran wide in the last two corners and picked up some minor damage to my front-wing. Without that, I think we would have finished the session P3.

"It was very tight out there in the first session, with FP2 slightly more spread out," he continued. "Every single lap is so valuable as you learn more about the car and try to get it into the sweet spot.

"We are trying to understand this car further and made some changes after Saudi Arabia," he added. "We'll have the team back at the factory working hard in the simulator to get more performance out of it."

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