Lewis Hamilton critical of three-year Mercedes problem

The Briton qualified eighth for the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a tough weekend


Lewis Hamilton has struggled for pace throughout the duration of the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend and has regularly trailed George Russell across all sessions, including qualifying as he criticised Mercedes for failing to solve the porpoising problem.

The issue came to the forefront of Formula 1 discourse at the start of the 2022 season when the cars violently slammed into the ground due to the venturi tunnels underneath the car generating so much downforce that they would pull the floor into the concrete.

Upon doing so, that severed the airflow under the car and it would raise back to its natural height only to be dragged back down again instantly once the airflow was sucked back under the car. So, it appeared that the car was vibrating all the way down the straights leading to heated exchanges about how to solve it from team principals.

Most teams actually have cured the problem now, including backmarkers, but one of the few who haven’t is Mercedes and Hamilton’s now wearing thin of the confidence-sapping problem that the Silver Arrows still have yet to solve three seasons on.

Lewis Hamilton during 2024 Saudi Grand Prix practice | Mercedes / LAT Images
Lewis Hamilton during 2024 Saudi Grand Prix practice | Mercedes / LAT Images

“Unfortunately, the bouncing is still there,” Hamilton said to media after qualifying. “It’s very, very, very difficult to push through that first section. That’s why we like so slow in that first sector.”

When asked if he felt frustrated, he was conservative in his response and said, “It’s three years in a row [now].”

Hamilton’s still positive about the car

Hamilton noted that he actually had hope heading into the qualifying session following a more positive third practice when he ran a larger rear-wing. Despite the wing costing him “two tenths” on the straights, he said that the car felt better balanced and that he could push more through the corners without losing confidence.

Yet in qualifying, the benefits seemed to disappear and he was back to where he started. Regardless, he’s still upbeat about the potential of the car noting that it’s still improvements on its ground effect predecessors.

“I think if we took that [porpoising] away the cars really so much better than last year,” Hamilton continued. “In every in every area. It’s just that’s really causing us some real big trouble.

“In second and third sector we’re a lot closer and we’re able to be closer through some of it and all the rest of the corners, but just that first section, it’s same as last year.”

Hamilton qualified eighth for the 2023 Saudi Arabian GP too, one second off the-then polesitter, Sergio Perez whilst in 2022, he suffered a shock Q1 elimination. It was the first time he had been KO’d in Q1 at all since 2017 and the first time on pace since 2009.

In 2023 he was half a second slower than Russell but in 2024, he was only 0.150 off the pace of the younger teammate showing that he’s managed to go quicker around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit but that Mercedes have lost ground to their rivals there. Hamilton was just under a second off the pace of Max Verstappen, who took pole.

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