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Lewis Hamilton ‘much happier’ with Mercedes’ 2024 F1 challenger

Mercedes has struggled with race cars over the past two seasons in F1. The team introduced an amazing “zero pod” design to the grid in 2022 with W13, but after struggling with physics all year, this design was scrapped midway through the 2023 season with last year’s challenger, W14. It was done.

These difficulties resulted in two difficult seasons for the team and caused great frustration for drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.

However, they seem to be working on something with W15, their challenger for the 2024 season. The team looked confident after pre-season testing, but that confidence has gone up several notches after the first day of practice before the Bahrain Grand Prix. The team topped the timesheets in FP2, with Hamilton just ahead of Russell. It is thought that Mercedes could make a serious appearance this weekend, with each team attempting a number of qualifying runs during the session.

The team’s words after practice speak to their confidence in the W15, even if they were realistic about how the grid would stack up.

“We’re not going to get carried away just because we practiced all day. Our qualifying pace looked strong. We made some changes from testing and we saw more improvement than expected. But at the end of the day, long run pace is what matters,” Russell said in the team’s post-practice media report. “Verstappen looked comfortably fastest, but was very close to Ferrari, McLaren and Aston Martin. So there’s probably a real battle ahead there.

Still, we are happy with how the day went. Car performance is good. We think hard, understand where the key improvements came from, and strive to maintain them. I want to fight for a good position on Saturday night.”

Hamilton shared Russell’s excitement about the car and a more realistic view of the grid as a whole.

“The car felt good, but we can’t move forward. We know we have more to bring out and our long-run pace is not up to par with the battle against the Red Bulls,” Hamilton said. “But overall we’re much happier with the car than we were last year. We’ve made some nice improvements and it’s more of a race car. This is a very good platform for us to build on. We just have to keep our heads down and keep chasing.”

Andrew Shovlin, the team’s trackside engineering director, said the team had concerns about lap pace following preseason testing. However, Thursday’s results show that Mercedes have taken positive steps on that front.

“After testing, we were most concerned about our lap pace. We had both drivers participate in the simulator before coming back here. From the way we drove today, it seems like we are improving. ,” Shoblein outlined.

Mercedes’ strength on Thursday contrasted with Red Bull and Ferrari’s one-lap pace, with speculation that both Ferrari and Red Bull could do well as the Silver Arrows pumped their engines just a little more than their rivals. Many people held this. I will respond in kind on Friday. Shovlin nodded in that direction in his post-practice comments.

“We are by no means on a roll, because there is plenty of room in power unit mode and fuel load for several cars to find significant time by tomorrow,” added Shovlin. “However, it is encouraging that the situation seems to have improved over the past week.”

Like the drivers, Shovlin remained realistic about the team’s position heading into qualifying. However, he shared the following basic beliefs: W15 is a big step forward for the team.

“The long-term data also looks close. As we saw last week, Verstappen is still comfortably at the front, but behind him there will be a fierce battle for the remaining podium spots. “I know there’s a lot to tweak in terms of balance,” Shovlin said. “The W15 is still in its early stages and I am learning how to set lap times with every run, but it already feels very different from the last two years I have been here.”

The atmosphere around the team has certainly changed as we head into 2024.

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