Lewis Hamilton says the Mercedes W12 is “a monster of a diva”

© Steve Etherington for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

Lewis Hamilton explains the problems Mercedes faced in 2021 because of the new Formula 1 rules, and says the W12 “has been very, very hard to set up”.

In 2021 Formula 1 tweaked the regulations a bit so that they favoured high-rake concept cars like Red Bull and Ferrari, while a low-rake design, like the one Mercedes uses, has been at a disadvantage.

Lewis Hamilton says these changes completely destroyed any progress that they have made with their car in recent years.

“Definitely. We knew we were going to lose all this downforce and once we found how much downforce we lost, the whole characteristics of the car shifted,” Hamilton told selected journalists.

“So what we had worked on for several years, getting the car into that sweet spot like last year, it’s been a nightmare to undo by playing with the tools when you can’t actually change any of the tools, and it just is what it is and trying to find smart ways to work around less downforce.

“There have been a lot of elements that have made it harder than ever. It’s been the hardest car to set up and I’ve done a lot of sim testing but even sim days.

“You go and do a sim day and the sim is not in the right place it’s supposed to be – the grip level’s not right or the wind effect is not right or the thermal deg is set wrong so you can come away with bogus numbers and you have to be so careful with the data that you are receiving and the decisions that you’re making.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride.”

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Mercedes has had difficult cars in the past, for example team boss Toto Wolff called the team’s 2017 car “a diva”, but Hamilton says the 2021 challenger is “a monster of a diva”.

“The car has been very, very hard to set up. Toto said one of our cars was a diva but this one is a monster of a diva.

“Plus we’ve had less practice time, so it’s been harder to get the car in the right window. And so therefore, when you don’t get the car in the right window, you just limit your potential.

“So I’m just not able to maximise my ability through the set-up not being in the right place, and it’s been very, very hard to get it into the right place.

“[In Brazil] I got the car exactly where I wanted. And that was like literally hitting the nail on the head.

“But that’s like maybe once or twice we’ve done that this year. I’d say in Brazil we maybe operated in that optimum, but most of the time we’re not optimising it. So you look deeper into the detail to try and find any performance that’s left over.

“So if, for example, the bodywork is slightly too open for cooling and you’re leaving 30 milliseconds of performance on the table, you chase it more than you’ve ever done before. You’re really hard on the guys: ‘Close the damn car up.’

“Or it could be heating from the front discs, or tyre pressures, gear ratios. When you’re shifting the gears, or the revs bog when you do the launch.

“The fuel target: making sure that you’re not finishing the race with four kilos of fuel and leaving a second of race time or whatever it is on the plate.

“So those are things that I’ve been applying more energy towards and being a lot harder with the team on. Because we need every millisecond we can get, particularly at the places where we have been really quite a bit down. Just going into more detail everywhere…

“I would say I’ve been more committed than I’ve ever been,” concluded the seven-time champion.

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