Why is Lewis Hamilton so slow in Saudi Arabia? Toto Wolff reveals reason

Both Mercedes drivers have been experimenting with various downforce levels in Jeddah

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Toto Wolff says that Mercedes have been struggling with bumps and suspension issues throughout the 2024 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and that a lack of confidence from their drivers is causing them to lose lap-time.

The Austrian team principal also added that Lewis Hamilton has been particularly off the pace of his teammate, George Russell, due to trying different downforce levels in order to find a balance around the Jeddah Corniche Circuit that rewards both straight-line speed and cornering speed.

“The bouncing is a little bit better,” Wolff said to Sky Sports F1. “But obviously, it’s if you don’t have the confidence or the high speed corners, you’re always going to lag and this is a particular weakness of ours here in Turns 6, 7 and 8.

“We’re just not we don’t have the speed that we would wish. Lewis has been trying more downforce to see what it does for him, I think it’s important now to sit to sit down in the debrief and say, ‘What’s better?’”

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

With those problems in mind, the 53-year-old has ruled Mercedes out of the fight for pole position on Friday by declaring that they are simply too far off the pace of Red Bull, but that they might be able to battle the Aston Martins and McLarens to be third best.

He also noted he doesn’t expect Mercedes to be anywhere near Max Verstappen in the race, which doesn’t come as a shock after the Dutchman won the 2024 Bahrain GP by 22 seconds.

“I don’t think we have a fight for race,” Wolff added. “Max is in a league of his own. That is at least for the long run show.

“Behind that it’s pretty tight at the moment. The pecking order, I would say, is [Sergio] Perez, then the Ferrari‘s and maybe it’ll be us but it’s very close between the McLaren‘s, Aston Martin‘s and ourselves.”

Wolff’s full of praise for Bearman

Formula 1 had some shock news ahead of FP3 as Carlos Sainz was ruled out of the remainder of the weekend after it was revealed that he will need surgery to address appendicitis, the problem that plagued Alex Albon in 2022.

So in his place, up stepped Oliver Bearman. Bearman races in Formula 2 full time and took pole for Prema ahead of the feature race but will now have new priorities as he shifts his attention to Ferrari.

With the chance to make an impressive cameo to the team, he performed strongly in FP3 and it was enough to replace Wolff who is looking for a driver of his own for 2025 after Hamilton decided to quit Mercedes.

“The younger kids that come in, their level of performance is very high,” Wolff said. “It’s getting so competitive starting from go-karting and the junior formulas.

“You put a kid in out of F2, in a Ferrari. without any practice sessions and he’s competitive. I don’t think he had even his engine switched on properly for the last run. It’s very impressive to see and very encouraging for the next generation.”

Brandon Sutton
Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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