An upbeat Lewis Hamilton was in good spirits after Mercedes debuted their long-awaited upgrades on the first day of the 2023 Monaco Grand Prix weekend.
The team’s struggles since the inception of the ground-effect regulations have been well documented, but a change of philosophy away from the ‘zero sidepod’ design is hoped to spark an upturn in form that will see them challenge for world championship honours in future.
Hamilton admitted after the Azerbaijan GP that he was “counting down the days” until this upgrade package was ready, and although he was made to wait longer than anticipated after the cancellation of the Emilia Romagna GP, it appears to have been worth it.
After finishing third in FP1 and sixth in FP2, Hamilton said: “I’ve generally had an amazing day, I really enjoyed driving today. I want to say a big thank you to everyone back at the factory, because to build and design and develop a car is not an easy thing.
“And everyone’s put so much time and so many hours of hard work to have us here today, so I’m glad that we were able to keep it on track for them.
“And I think we got a lot of data. I mean, it’s not the place to ultimately test and upgrade, but the car was generally feeling good.
“I think, ultimately, it’s a shame we weren’t as close as I’d hoped at the end of the session, but definitely felt the improvements.
“Just gotta keep chipping away at it and see if we can squeeze any more juice out the car.”
‘Platform to build on’
Mercedes appear to have adopted a similar approach to Red Bull and Aston Martin, who have established themselves as the top two teams of the season to date.
The big talking point is about the sidepods but it’s the floor and the suspension that are expected to give the W14 the anti-dive properties that have been so successful on the RB19.
Asked if he felt there was a particular area in which the car is now better, Hamilton added: “There is, but I’m not going to say where it is. But there is and it’s very clear where the lack of performances is for me.
“And so we’ll talk about that in the debrief. We’ll get our heads together and try and figure out how we can do that with within what we have.
“But hopefully this gives us a platform to build on.”
Pole out of reach
While buoyed by what he felt in the first two practice sessions, Hamilton was also keen to exercise caution ahead of Saturday’s crucial qualifying session.
The Brit might have outperformed his teammate George Russell but he was still half a second down on Max Verstappen‘s FP2 pace.
“In FP1 I thought maybe we were looking good [for pole],” he added. “We’re always looking good in FP1 for some reason.
“In this session we were close to half a second off. I think maybe that could have been three tenths, maybe.
“But I don’t think we have half a second in the bag. So we’ll see, we’ll work on it and see if we can squeeze more out of it tonight.”