Mercedes’ head of race strategy Rosie Wait has revealed that Lewis Hamilton had to manage a “real reliability concern” during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, to avoid retiring from the race.
Hamilton endured a lacklustre season finale, which took a turn for the worse in qualifying after he was eliminated in Q2.
It marked the first time since 2014 that the 38-year-old had failed to make Q3 in back-to-back races, a statistic Hamilton won’t want to repeat in 2024.
One-lap pace was an unexpected issue for the 104-time pole sitter throughout the now-concluded 2023 campaign; however, one of his biggest strengths this year was fighting through the field.
On the whole, Hamilton’s race pace has been exemplary in 2023, but it was nowhere to be seen at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The seven-time World Champion struggled to make any progress from 11th on the grid and had to settle for a disappointing ninth come the end of the season finale.
Hamilton looked downbeat after the race in the media pen and was seemingly relieved that the season was finally over; however, it could’ve concluded much earlier had he not done well to nurse a brake problem.
Wait explained how Hamilton’s pace would’ve been better had he not been taking care of a brake problem throughout the Grand Prix; which Mercedes are now investigating to ensure that it doesn’t happen again next season.
Ultimately, the Silver Arrows “number one priority” was just making sure that Hamilton made it to the chequered flag.
“If you picked through the data, and correct for things like the age of tyres, the track condition, Lewis’ performance was actually pretty similar through stint two and stint three but the race situation made it look quite different,” Wait said in Mercedes’ post-Abu Dhabi debrief, when answering why Hamilton’s pace worsened in the latter stages of the race.
“In stint two, Lewis was on fresh tyres chasing down Fernando [Alonso], whereas Fernando was on older tyres and spent most of that stint in the dirty air of [Oscar] Piastri. That makes Fernando’s performance look worse than it was in reality and Lewis therefore look stronger.
“Take stint three and the positions were reversed. Fernando had slightly newer tyres than Lewis and fresh air, and Lewis was in the dirty air of Fernando with the older tyres, and so that’s why his performance doesn’t look as impressive despite the lap times being quite similar.
“The other thing to be aware of is that Lewis was managing brake issues throughout the race, which was a real reliability concern.
“So, our number one priority was making sure that we got that car to the finish and didn’t have to retire it.
“That will have affected his performance to varying degrees throughout the race and is something that we are certainly working on to improve for next year’s car.”