Lewis Hamilton says it is “very clear” where the new-look Mercedes W14 is lacking in performance despite an “amazing” first day with the upgraded car in Monaco.
Mercedes committed to a change of car philosophy after a lacklustre start to the season in early March, with this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix the first sighting of the heavily revised W14 featuring a more conventional sidepod design.
While team-mate George Russell struggled throughout the day in Monte Carlo, finishing no higher than 12th in FP1 and FP2, Hamilton looked closer to his old self for much of Friday’s running.
Third and ahead of the dominant Red Bulls in the morning session, Hamilton was a fixture near the top of the timesheets and ultimately ended the day sixth, albeit half a second off the pace-setting time of Max Verstappen.
Hamilton said: “I’ve generally had an amazing day, I really enjoyed driving today.
“I want to say a big, big thank you to everyone back at the factory because to build and design and develop a car is not an easy thing and everyone’s put so much time in, so many hours of hard work, to have us here today.
“I’m glad that we were able to keep it on track for them and I think we got a lot of data.
“It’s not the place to ultimately test an upgrade but the car was generally feeling good. I think obviously it was a bit of a shame [that] we weren’t as close as I’d hoped at the end of the session, but definitely felt the improvements and we’ve just got to keep chipping away to see if we can squeeze any more juice out of the car.”
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Asked if he could identify one area where he noticed the biggest improvement, Hamilton declined to say – but reiterated that the new-look car is the first step on a different development path.
“There is – I’m not going to say where – but there is and it’s very clear where the lack of performance is for me,” he said.
“We’ll talk about that in the debrief, we’ll put our heads together and try and figure out how we can do that within what we have, but hopefully this gives us a platform to build on moving forwards.”
Despite sensing a general step forward, Hamilton feels it will be difficult to challenge for pole position on Saturday given the extent of the deficit to Verstappen in FP2.
He added: “In [F]P1 I thought, ‘Well, maybe we’re looking pretty good’, but we’re always looking pretty good in P1 for some reason.
“So in this session we were close to half-second off, I think. Maybe that could have been three-tenths, maybe, but I don’t think we have half a second in the bag.
“So, we’ll see. We’ll work on it and see if we can get some more [lap time] out tonight.”
Hamilton has previously won in Monaco on three separate occasions, having followed up his maiden victory on the famous streets for McLaren in 2008 with wins for Mercedes in 2016 and 2019.
A resident of the principality, the 38-year-old reflected on his journey from ambitious youngster to seven-time World Champion.
Asked how good it feels to be back racing in Monaco, he explained: “It’s amazing. Such a beautiful [place]. It really is a special place. It is a stunning place for people to come.
“A lot of Brits come over here, lots of Europeans obviously naturally here. It’s such a privilege. I woke up this morning and just reminded myself as this kid when I was 13 and saw this place and when I first came here.
“Seeing it was then my dream [and] I was like, ‘One day I’m going to live here.’
“To wake up here and know that I’m one of only 20 drivers that get to drive in Formula 1, I just had to pinch myself this morning, so I feel very, very grateful.”