Lewis Hamilton was surprised by Mercedes' "huge" gap on the Baku straights.
Lewis Hamilton was surprised by Mercedes’ “huge” gap on the Baku straights.© Images AGN

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes still has a lot of work to do to “fix” the W14 after it lost a lot of time on the straights during qualifying for the Azerbaijan GP.

Even though the big changes to the W14 aren’t expected until Imola, Mercedes showed up in Baku with a new front and back endplate, rear corner, and front suspension.

But it doesn’t look like these changes have helped Mercedes get closer to the top pace yet. In fact, it looks like the opposite has happened, which is a little scary since Hamilton just barely made it to Q3 while George Russell couldn’t get over that hump.

Hamilton ended up in fifth place on the grid for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. He finished almost a second behind the surprise leader, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who won his third straight Baku pole position.

And on a track that tests a car’s straight-line speed, especially on that 2.2-kilometer-long “monster start-finish straight,” Hamilton did not expect Mercedes to be so far behind foes Red Bull and Ferrari in this area.

“I didn’t really know what to expect this weekend,” Hamilton said in Baku. His last race was in Australia, where he finished second. “I was sure that the Red Bulls would be very fast.”I didn’t think we would have such a big gap on the straights, but it’s a good sign. We’re slower on the straights and then slower in the middle sector, so we have a lot of work to do to fix that in the car, which isn’t easy to drive. “I’m happy to be on the third row, and hopefully tomorrow we can have a bit of a better battle.”

Lewis Hamilton following a Ferrari.© PA Images

Planet F1.com suggests

Baku GP Qualy: Charles Leclerc wins first pole position of 2023, which is good news for Ferrari.

Charles Leclerc was’surprised’ to get pole position because he only wanted to beat Aston Martin and Mercedes.

Now that the cars are in parc ferme before the sprint shootout and race on Saturday, Hamilton hopes he can still “eke” a little more speed out of that W14.

But in the end, he said that Mercedes “exists to win,” and he thinks that the changes that are coming will help them get back on track to this goal.

“We’re working as hard as we can and giving it everything we’ve got,” he said. “It’s not easy to get the timing and rhythm right and really pull out everything on this track.”

“I think in Q2, it was hard. I was faster, but I didn’t make that last lap. My Q3 run one was a really good lap, but I only matched it at the end and needed just a little bit more time to beat a Ferrari driven by Carlos Sainz.We can’t make any changes to the car, so this is where we stand. I might be able to get a little more out of it tomorrow, but this is a good place to start on Sunday.

Mercedes’ one-lap speed will be put to the test again on Saturday, when the drivers return to qualifying, albeit in a shortened version of Q1, Q2, and Q3, before the first sprint of F1 2023 shifts the focus to race.

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