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Mercedes facing ‘big decisions’ after Lewis Hamilton struggles in Azerbaijan GP practice, says Damon Hill

Mercedes facing ‘big decisions’ after Lewis Hamilton struggles in Azerbaijan GP practice, says Damon Hill

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Mercedes facing 'big decisions' after Lewis Hamilton struggles in Azerbaijan GP practice, says Damon Hill

Mercedes are facing “big decisions” and must find their direction after a disappointing display in Azerbaijan GP practice by Lewis Hamilton, according to former world champion Damon Hill.

 

 

Lewis Hamilton endured a difficult first day on track in Baku, dealing with significant bouncing and managing a set-up experiment in Practice Two that didn’t come off.

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After finishing more than a second off Sergio Perez’s leading time in P1, Hamilton was even further off the pace in the second session, finishing 1.6s back from Charles Leclerc in 12th, with team-mate George Russell only 0.3s better off in seventh.

Hamilton, who has failed to secure a podium since the opening race of the season, is already 75 points behind world championship leader Max Verstappen.

“I’ll get by. I’m a bit sore,” the seven-time world champion said. “We’re hitting some serious speeds at the end here and it’s bouncing a lot.

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“I just can’t really tell you where (we are losing) 1.6 seconds,1.3 seconds or whatever it is, that’s a long way away.”

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After a hugely disappointing start to the season under F1’s all-new design regulations, Mercedes appeared to have turned a corner in an improved display in Barcelona last month, but then regressed at Monaco a week later.

The Silver Arrows’ latest struggles led Hill to voice his concerns about the team’s direction for the remainder of the season, with their hopes of a ninth successive constructors’ title already appearing extremely bleak.

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“It looks like they’re trying everything they can think of, if you listen to Lewis saying that he tried another experimental set up yet again, without much success,” Hill said on Sky Sports F1.

Hamilton struggled in Baku on Friday
Hamilton struggled in Baku on Friday

“This is where you start to go, fundamentally have we gone wrong somewhere with our concept? Then, that’s a bit more of a headache because you can’t just do that with upgrades, it’s difficult to do that with upgrades.

“They said that they felt like they had a direction in Spain, but it’s been lost again.

“They need to ask themselves some big questions and take some big decisions, I think.”

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Sky Sports F1‘s Naomi Schiff explained how the bouncing Hamilton experienced on Friday will be making it difficult for him to perform at a high level.

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“It’s uncomfortable,” Schiff said. “Luckily, I’ve not really had to deal with it, but clearly all the comments are saying that the drivers are suffering, and you saw it from Lewis, his back is hurting.

“For visibility as well, it’s not great. It’s more frustrating because I think really at this point, they want to be steering away from this issue and starting to focus on their real overall set up.

“I think that’s the bigger issue, they haven’t been able to solve it and there is supposed potential in the car, and it still hasn’t been unleashed.”

The unpredictability of Baku’s high-speed street circuit will leave Mercedes hopeful they can make ground over the weekend, with five races at the track having produced five different pole sitters and five different winners.

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However, Russell admitted that hopes of competing with this season’s dominant teams – Red Bull and Ferrari – are minimal.

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“At the moment, they [Red Bull and Ferrari] just have inherently a faster car than us and we’ve done everything we can to catch up,” Russell said.

“If we’re totally on top of our tyres we’re not going to fully close that gap, they’re just too far ahead. So, that [tyres] is probably 50 per cent of our issue, the rest is just the lack of performance we have at the moment.”

Despite another disappointing Friday, Hill says all is not lost for Mercedes, but insists that a clarity of purpose must arrive soon for Toto Wolff’s team.

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“A season is never a write-off,” he added. “You’ve got lots of races coming up and still a lot of time, but they need to find a direction.”

Source: Sky Sports

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