Lewis Hamilton insists Mercedes’ W15 car is not ‘evil sister’ of disappointing predecessors ahead of Australian GP

Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are both optimistic that Mercedes can find improvement at the Australian Grand Prix; watch Friday practice from 1am and 5am, with qualifying on Saturday at 5am and the Australian GP itself from 4am on Sunday – live on Sky Sports F1

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Lewis Hamilton admits that Mercedes haven’t maximised their cars potential yet, but says he is positive ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton has insisted that Mercedes’ W15 is “definitely not the evil sister” of its underperforming predecessors and that “mistakes” have prevented the team maximising the car’s potential at the start of the 2024 Formula 1 season.

Having begun their campaign with the hope of being Red Bull’s nearest challenger and taking the fight to the reigning constructors’ champions, disappointing results in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have lowered expectations.

While Max Verstappen has begun his quest for a fourth successive drivers’ title by leading team-mate Sergio Perez to successive Red Bull one-twos, Mercedes have failed to place a car inside the top four at either race, with Ferrari starting the campaign as the best of the rest.

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During an interview on the latest season of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, Hamilton described 2023’s W14 as the “evil sister” of 2022’s W13, in neither of which the seven-time world champion was able to add to his record haul of 103 F1 wins with.

Asked ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix if he has similar feelings about Mercedes’ latest challenger, Hamilton said: “It’s definitely not the evil sister or anything like that.

“I think we have an amazing car, there’s a lot of potential in it and I think we just haven’t maximised it at the moment.”

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George Russell says there’s a mountain to climb when competing against Red Bull at the Australian Grand Prix, but admits things can change quickly in F1.

Hamilton, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next season, says the lack of performance has been caused by mistakes with the set-up of the car.

“[Through set-up, through ultimately mistakes and we’re obviously not happy with the performance at those first couple of races,” the 39-year-old said.

“But I think there’s a lot more potential in it that we just haven’t quite extracted yet. So that’s what everyone’s focus is on, just trying to understand the car.

“And we’re hoping this weekend is a step forward. There’s a huge amount of work that’s gone on, everyone’s heads are down in the numbers and I feel positive for this weekend. We’ve had two not such great races but there’s a long way ahead.”

Why is Hamilton more positive than in Saudi Arabia?

After finishing ninth in Jeddah, Hamilton cut a frustrated figure in his post-race interview with Sky Sports F1 as he said “big changes” were still required to the W15.

In Melbourne on Thursday, Hamilton was asked whether his outlook has brightened in the time off between races, during which Mercedes have been attempting to solve what the team admits are “fundamental issues” with the car,

“I think we had a really good winter or three-day test that we had,” he said. “We’ve made big improvements with this car – just in terms of generally driving it, it feels like a much, much better car, much more like a race car.

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Hamilton said after the Saudi Arabian GP that Mercedes must make big changes to compete for the top spots.

“But it can drop off one end or the other end. It’s a narrow working window with these types of cars. I do believe that we’ve still got that winning mindset within the team. I have absolute faith that these guys are going to fix any of the problems that we have, we will get there.

“The fact that Max has 58 points and I have eight points after two races, if you’re logical about it… you have to be conscious it’s a very long season also, so things can change but it’s going to be very hard to catch those guys. Their car, they drop it on the track and it just works. For us, we are really, really grinding to pick up that performance and get it to where we need to be.

“The dream and the goal is still, if we can get wins this year, or podiums this year, I think that could be really amazing. To finish second in constructors last year given the issues we had with the car just shows what we can do with something that’s not even perfect. So I’m hoping that we can do that again this year.”

Hamilton, Russell hopeful of Albert Park podium

While pre-season expectations have clearly been reset, there is optimism that Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit could suit the W15 the best of the three tracks raced at so far.

Mercedes were strong in the first sector in Jeddah which featured several slower corners, but were then unable to keep pace with rivals through the remaining higher-speed sections of the track.

Encouragement can also be taken from the fact George Russell and Hamilton qualified second and third respectively for Mercedes in Melbourne last season, before the latter finished second in the race after an engine failure ruined Russell’s hopes of challenging Verstappen.

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Look back at some of the most dramatic moments to have taken place around the Albert Park Circuit.

“Maybe this weekend with the changes that we’ve made, maybe the car will be in a much sweeter spot, like we saw in some of the testing in Bahrain, but we won’t find out until tomorrow,” Hamilton said ahead of Friday’s two practice sessions.

“Realistically, the other guys have done an amazing job – you’ve got Aston Martin who have really taken a step forward, Ferrari have taken a step forward, McLaren, and then Red Bull have done an amazing job with their package also, so it will be close.

“You can imagine that Red Bull are going to be ahead, more likely. but the competition is closer than it was last year.

“But our car has been particularly strong in the medium and slow speed corners, we saw in the last race, and there’s more of that here. We’re going to be giving it absolutely everything, we’re going to give it hell this weekend.”

Russell, who has qualified and finished ahead of Hamilton at each of the opening races, is also hopeful of an improvement in Australia.

The 26-year-old also offered a reminder that Aston Martin started last season as Red Bull’s nearest challengers before being overtaken by Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren.

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George Russell retired from last year’s Australian GP after his car caught fire.

Asked if he expected Mercedes to be closer to Red Bull this weekend, Russell replied: “Yeah absolutely. We’ve gone well here the last two seasons. Obviously, we qualified second and third here last year and we were fighting for the win at one point.

“We’ve learned so much from the first two races. I think we’re all definitely going out tomorrow to test a lot of things on the car, to get a better handle on how to get the most out of this car.

“It’s a softer compound of tyres here, which Ferrari tend to go pretty well in qualifying on the C5 tyre.

“But I think if you take the Red Bull out of the situation, it’s a really exciting battle right behind, but ultimately we’re not here to fight for P2, we want to be fighting for victory. We know there’s a mountain to climb but it swings very quickly in this sport.

“Just going through our meetings this morning, seeing the Aston Martin on the podium (here last year), if somebody said after the first six races last year that they’d finish P5 in the championship, you wouldn’t believe it. So I think that just goes to show how quick it can change.”

Sky Sports F1’s live Australian GP schedule

Thursday March 21

  • 9.45pm: F3 Practice
  • 10.55pm: F2 Practice

Friday March 22

  • 1am: Australian GP Practice One (session starts at 1.30am)
  • 2.55am: F3 Qualifying
  • 4.45am: Australian GP Practice Two (session starts at 5am)
  • 6.25am: F2 Qualifying
  • 7.15am: The F1 Show
  • 8.30am: Australian GP Practice One highlights
  • 10am: Australian GP practice Two highlights

Saturday March 23

  • 0.10am: F3 Sprint
  • 1.10am: Australian GP Practice Three (session starts at 1.30am)
  • 3.10am: F2 Sprint
  • 4.15am: Australian GP Qualifying build-up
  • 5am: Australian GP Qualifying
  • 7am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian GP Qualifying highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP Qualifying replay (Sky Showcase)
  • 10.30am: Australian GP Qualifying replay
  • 10pm: F3 Feature Race

Sunday March 24

  • 0.30am: F2 Feature Race
  • 3am: Australian GP build-up: Grand Prix Sunday
  • 6am: Australian GP reaction: Chequered flag
  • 7am: Ted’s Notebook
  • 7.30am: Australian GP highlights
  • 8.30am: Australian GP build-up: Grand Prix Sunday replay
  • 9.30am: Australian GP race replay
  • 10am: Australian GP highlights (Sky Showcase)
  • 11.30am: Australian GP reaction: Chequered flag replay

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, with Sunday’s race live on Sky Sports F1 at 4am. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – no contract, cancel anytime

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