Mercedes Unveils Hamilton’s Japan Race Struggle

The Japanese Grand Prix proved to be another challenging outing for Mercedes, particularly for Lewis Hamilton. Nonetheless, the team has uncovered a significant issue that impacted his performance during the race.

Hamilton concluded the race in a disappointing ninth place in Japan, but Mercedes subsequently disclosed that he was grappling with a problem concerning his front wing, resulting in exacerbated understeer for his car.

The journey to Suzuka turned out to be one to erase from memory for the 39-year-old.

Despite qualifying in seventh position, ahead of both Charles Leclerc and George Russell, Hamilton struggled to maintain pace throughout the race, eventually relinquishing track position to his teammate and failing to capitalize on an ambitious tire strategy.

However, it has now been verified that one of the contributing factors to Hamilton’s subpar performance during the race was damage sustained by one of his front wing end plates, as confirmed by Mercedes’ trackside engineering director, Andrew Shovlin.

“It did lose a bit [of performance],” Shovlin stated. More than the absolute amount of downforce you lost, it just made the car a bit more understeer on a stint where we were probably already a little bit on the understeer side.”

Sunday turned out to be warmer than initially anticipated, requiring teams to make adjustments to cope with the sudden change in weather conditions just before the race commenced.

“The track was hot so on the grid we took a little bit of wing out for that. But that additional loss then caused him problems and he was actually quite front-limited throughout that first stint,” Shovlin emphasized.

The red flag on the first lap, caused by the collision between Daniel Ricciardo and Alex Albon, provided an opportunity for a strategic reassessment. According to Shovlin, the decisions made by the team during the race stoppage were more influential on Hamilton’s early performance than his front wing problem.

Mercedes decided to pursue a one-stop strategy, equipping both Hamilton and Russell with two sets of Hard tires. However, this unconventional approach did not yield the desired results, prompting both drivers to pit again for Medium tires in the latter part of the race.

“At the pit stop, we didn’t change the wing but we can put some flap angle back in it. You can put a bit more load on and that actually puts the car in a much better place,” he continued.

“So, as I said in terms of headline numbers, not a lot of lap time when you can balance it out but certainly adding to the problems that we had during stint one.”