Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton has expressed his apprehension about Red Bull’s sustained dominance and raised doubts about whether Mercedes can bridge the gap in the upcoming Formula One season following the Abu Dhabi season finale on Sunday.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen secured a record 19th victory in 22 grand prix races, marking his 21st podium finish of the year. Red Bull had a remarkably dominant season, winning all but one of the races.
The nature of Verstappen’s final victory of the season did little to ease concerns for those hoping for increased competition in 2024. He finished 17.993 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
Despite finishing second in the constructors’ championship, Mercedes accumulated less than half the points of Red Bull.
Hamilton shared his thoughts with Sky Sports television after finishing ninth, with teammate George Russell in third place. “It’s not been a great year. There’s not a lot to take from the year in general,” said Hamilton. “The fact that I survived it, probably that’s about it.”
When asked about Mercedes’ prospects for next year, Hamilton expressed uncertainty. “At this moment I don’t really know,” he said. “For Red Bull to win by 17 seconds in the end and they haven’t even developed their car since August is definitely a concern. But we’ve learned a lot about the car, and it’s just down to the team now. They know what they need to do. Whether or not we will get there, we will see.”
Mercedes team boss and co-owner Toto Wolff, despite a winless season for the team, sounded more optimistic. “This day feels like you’ve won and that’s great. We’ve got to be happy about that, but also as a racer, you want more, but today we won,” said Wolff.
“We have a gap to the leaders, but the two (Mercedes) teams in Brackley and Brixworth (engines) are so motivated, we have so much good things in the pipeline, so much new things,” continued Wolff. “I am in a really good place to see what’s coming together. We’ve got to take momentum from here and take that momentum into the factories.”
Image credit: Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton before the race at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. — Reuters