Lewis Hamilton lacking confidence, Toto Wolff ‘frustrated’ ahead of F1 Australian GP

Mercedes came to Melbourne ahead of the 2024 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix hoping to narrow the gap to Red Bull and Ferrari in front of them.

As Saturday dawns Down Under, the team is still looking for answers.

While both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were in the top ten during Friday’s first practice session, some “experiments” on Hamilton’s W15 saw him struggle in the second practice session. Those struggles left Team Principal Toto Wolff “frustrated,” and led to an admission from Hamilton that he was lacking confidence in the current setup for the W15.

In the second practice session Russell finished in P6, while Hamilton lagged behind in P18.

“It didn’t feel great out there today. We began the day on the front foot and in FP1, the car generally felt good. The first run was actually the best the car has felt so far this year. To continue our learning, we made some big changes into FP2 and unfortunately, that made the car worse,” said Hamilton in the team’s post-practice report. “It was tough but there are positives we can take from the first session. We will be working hard overnight to make improvements ahead of tomorrow.”

“We had a good FP1 session. The changes we made to improve our high-speed cornering performance and reduce the bouncing after Saudi Arabia seemed to be a good step in the right direction,” described Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin. “Overall, the car was feeling quite good. Unfortunately, FP2 wasn’t as strong. Lewis felt that we had gone in the wrong direction with our changes. Frustratingly, they weren’t quick to unwind so he had to live with that throughout the session.”

Speaking with the media, Wolff outlined his frustrations.

“Well, we have achieved experiments, but we haven’t unlocked performance,” said Wolff to Sky Sports F1.

“In the second session, I think we’ve gone through a quite dramatic setup change for Lewis. And that has massively backfired,” added the Mercedes team boss.

The Mercedes boss then went further.

“If I would say that I’m not frustrated, it would be not the truth,” added Wolff.

“Certainly, we are, because we’re trying so much in all directions, but we don’t seem to have found the silver bullet yet, which helps to get us in the right direction.

“But we’ve got to keep trying.”

Hamilton also elaborated on his frustrations, as well as his current lack of confidence in the W15, when speaking with the media.

“I obviously don’t feel great,” started Hamilton. “We had one of the worst sessions I’ve probably had for a long time. FP1 generally felt quite good – the car in FP1, run one, actually felt the best it’s ever felt – but it just got worse and worse.”

“We made some big changes into FP2 and it was tough. After that session, I feel the least confident I’ve ever felt with this car,” added Hamilton. “But there are positives from that [like] that FP1 run that we did.”

Over on the other side of the garage things were a bit more positive, as Russell found himself in the top ten during both sessions. If it were not for a sudden snap late in FP2, Russell might have finished even higher up the timing sheets.

“We were pushing the limits today and I had a few moments out there. It was all under control in the end though. It was very tight out there in the first session with FP2 slightly more spread out,” described the Mercedes driver. “I was on for a really good lap on my last push on the Soft tyre, but just ran wide in the last two corners and picked up some minor damage to my front-wing. Without that, I think we would have finished the session P3.”

Mercedes now has one more practice session to find the right balance for Hamilton, ahead of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix. That work comes as the team enters the weekend sitting fourth in the Constructors’ Championship standings, two points behind third-place McLaren and 61 points behind Red Bull.

And of course there is the even bigger underlying story, which is Hamilton’s looming departure at the end of the season for Ferrari.

That story is likely not going away anytime soon, no matter how well the W15 performs for Hamilton.

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