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Hamilton reasserts himself over Russell as Mercedes change direction with W14 · RaceFans

Soon after launching their new car for the 2023 season Mercedes realised they’d made a mistake by sticking with the concept behind last year’s car.

But as early as the sixth round of the season in Monaco the team had a drastic update ready for their W14, removing the distinctive ‘zero’ side pods and replacing them with a more conventional arrangement. A further iteration of that concept arrived at the final race before the summer break at Spa-Francorchamps.

While both of the team’s drivers seemed satisfied with the direction of their development, one of them appeared to respond especially well to the modified W14. In the early races Lewis Hamilton admitted he lacked confidence in the car’s handling and as Mercedes have improved the W14, Hamilton has got more from it than his team mate.

George Russell proved an excellent benchmark for Hamilton last year, out-scoring him over the season, even if Hamilton showed slightly more potential in the unloved W13 and bore the brunt of Mercedes’ efforts to knock it into shape early in the season. However over the first five races of 2023 Russell underlined his potential and set the standard within the team more often than not.

George Russell, Mercedes, Albert Park, 2023
Russell led but retired in Australia

He qualified strongly in Jeddah and outran Hamilton after the Safety Car. In Melbourne he produced an especially strong drive, taking the lead early on before unreliability ruined his day. In Azerbaijan Russell took the fight to Verstappen in the sprint race – much to the Red Bull driver’s displeasure – and led Hamilton in Miami as well.

But since the new sidepods arrived for the W14 in Monaco, Hamilton has appeared reinvigorated and often been the quicker of the two – his SQ1 slip-up in Austria a notable exception. Hamilton claimed podium finishes in Spain and Canada, and rode his luck for another at home in Silverstone. An inspired lap in qualifying at the Hungaroring produced Hamilton’s first pole position for more than a year and a half.

Now Russell is the driver looking to rediscover his form with the latest Mercedes. However the rain affected sprint race weekend at Spa gave the team little opportunity to extract the most from its latest upgrade, and both drivers ran markedly different downforce levels. When the season resumes we will watch with interest to discover whether the latest iteration of the W14 suits Russell better and swings the pendulum between the two drivers once again.

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Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Hamilton was faster; Positive value: Russell was faster

2023 F1 season

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