The years go by but will not be alike, for once. Winner of the event eight times – an absolute record -, still third last year because of a monumental miss at the start and exhaustion due to the consequences of his Covid, Lewis Hamilton will not triumph Sunday at the Hungaroring , except in the unlikely event of a reversal of the situation. On Friday, the seven-time world champion experienced what he feared: his W13 is not made for the turnstile in the suburbs of Budapest. And what he found was worse than he imagined.
During a grueling day, the 37-year-old Englishman fell from 7th in the first free practice session to 11th in the second, while his young team-mate George Russell slipped from 5th to 8th, falling behind respectively 0″910 and 1″102 from the reference single-seater, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. “The set-up changes before Free Practice 2 made the W13 difficult to control, with both drivers suffering from poor grip and general instability”summed up the eight-time reigning world champion team.
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“She’s a bit cowardly and doesn’t do what we want”
Launched into a frantic race to catch up with Ferrari and Red Bull, the Brackley team actually conducted all-out testing. “The team experimented with a redesigned Halo profile, a new rear wing side bulkhead and a new rear flap with increased camber”she detailed. In short, it was a bit too much and it went all over the place on the track, like the heat that Lewis Hamilton had at turn 4, or George Russell’s difficulty in turning his Silver Arrow without locking the wheels in Turn 1.”
“The car was a hassle today, it’s crazy how it changes from one circuit to anotherconfessed Lewis Hamilton. We’re going to have a lot of work to do on the settings to try to make it work. At the moment she is a little loose and not doing what we want. Not much has changed since last week, I’m still the same driver! But for some reason on this track it doesn’t work as well. When it worked, we were down a second, which is similar to last week.”
A Mercedes laboratory for 2023
And the problem for him is that Saturday will in no way prepare him for the race, which will be contested a priori in the dry. In qualifying, the wet track will perhaps reshuffle the cards to his advantage, as was the case at the Canadian Grand Prix, which allowed him to snatch a fourth fastest time in Q3 and an unexpected podium on Sunday. But he fell behind for the race. “I didn’t have much opportunity to do a stint at the end because I suffered damage to my floor and lost a lot of downforce. It’s going to be a tough weekend.”he concluded.
“It’s definitely not our calmest Friday of the season. It was a bit of an odd Friday as we think the weather is going to be wet on Saturday for qualifying and different on Sunday.commented George Russell. We tried a number of things and used the session as a practice session, so even though it was a tough day, it was probably productive. Today was about learning long-term lessons rather than maximizing our lap times, but we fell further behind than expected with a few issues here and there.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) at the 2022 Austrian Grand Prix
Credit: Getty Images
Quite a worrying moment, we heard him complaining on the radio about understeer. “Damn, but what’s going on in Turn 1? I can’t pass it without locking the wheels!”he cursed.
Before the tests, the ex-Williams driver had explained that Mercedes was in a real reflection as to what should be kept as a design principle on the car in order to ensure a margin of progress next season. Because the team no longer has any illusions: the W13 with “zero pontoons” is a failure, and suffers from a lack of cooling in high heat, as was the case last week at the Grand Prix de France and like that may be the case on Sunday, even if the mercury should rise lower than Friday.
A crucial qualification
“The first session was okay but we made some changes for the second, on both cars which set us back.acknowledged Andrew Shovlin, the chief operating engineer. It’s going to be easy to undo for Saturday. It looks like we are going to have rain, so we hope to be able to restore the situation. But instead of finding out what not to do in free practice 2, the afternoon wasn’t very useful to us. To make matters worse, Lewis suffered damage with low fuel – which we were unable to repair before the end of the session – and the car was very rough and very inconsistent.
“We have a busy night in the garage and the design office to make sure we can recover the hit. Qualifying is more important here than at most circuits. We know the car works well when it’s in the good window, and that’s what we’re going to try to do”concluded the head of the settings program.
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