Lewis Hamilton warned about new Mercedes contract

Lewis Hamilton signed a two-year contract extension with Mercedes earlier this year, despite their woes.

Ex-Jaguar technical director Gary Anderson has predicted that Mercedes won’t be able to catch Red Bull over the upcoming winter break and will instead enter 2024 as the “fourth fastest team”.

That’s a prediction which will bring nightmares to Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, who are desperate for the Silver Arrows to return to the very top.

It’s been a troubling two years or so for Mercedes, ever since they started developing their 2022 car for the new aerodynamic regulations.

Mercedes last season introduced the ‘zero-sidepod’ concept, which failed miserably.

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The Brackley-based team lost six months of development trying to eradicate their porpoising issues, putting them well behind the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari.

Even when they solved their bouncing problems, the W13 failed to compete with Red Bull consistently, with just the occasional impressive performance.

Given their 2022 struggles, it could be viewed that the Germans decision to enter 2023 with the same concept was stubborn, especially as it came to light that they’d supposedly ignored feedback from Hamilton.

Hamilton wanted the concept gone, something which finally happened at the Monaco Grand Prix where they introduced a traditional sidepod design.

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Switching concepts has allowed Mercedes to discover a development path to follow; however, it still is nowhere near enough to compete with Red Bull.

No matter what upgrades Mercedes introduce, the Austrians are simply too superior.

Concerningly, the Silver Arrows have arguably been overtaken by McLaren and Ferrari in the pecking order, with McLaren’s sudden rise in particular leaving Mercedes scratching their heads.

The Woking-based team have gone from having one of the weakest cars on the grid to one of the strongest, simply through developing a couple major upgrades.

Many see McLaren as the team to take the fight to Red Bull, especially as Mercedes look set to make an overhaul of changes once again for 2024, at least that’s what Hamilton and Russell seemingly want.

In many ways, that’ll put them back to square one, with Anderson expecting the Germans to be fourth in the pecking order at the start of next season.

“You would expect a team of Mercedes’ stature, experience and budget – they are there to win, not finish fifth and seventh – to improve their car during the season but they have not,” wrote Anderson in his column for The Telegraph.

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“It is very unlikely that the team will have miraculous development over the winter. Looking at the current rate of progress within the top five teams, I would expect Mercedes to be at best the fourth fastest team at the start of next year.

“You have to prove to yourself that you understand your problems and after 20 months and 38 races since these ground effect rules came into play I am yet to see this.

“A team cannot just put all their hopes into the winter. Not much has changed since the start of last year.

“They appear to go into a race meeting not having a clue what to expect. If I was at the team I would not have confidence that the direction they are taking next year – whatever it is – is the correct one.

“They will probably be heading in the visual direction of Red Bull, but the visual side is only a small part in the overall performance of the car.”