Lewis Hamilton has admitted he is struggling with soreness caused by Mercedes’ bouncing at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Hamilton’s car suffered from severe porpoising around the high-speed Baku street circuit and was over a second-and-a-half slower than pace-setter Charles Leclerc in the second practice session on Friday.
The Briton has endured a forgettable 2022 season so far having failed to score a podium finish since the first race in Bahrain. He is 75 points adrift of Drivers’ Championship leader Max Verstappen, who narrowly beat him to the driver’s title back in December for Red Bull.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 what the hardest thing was about Friday’s two sessions in Azerbaijan, Hamilton replied simply: “Bouncing.” Asked if he’s alright, the seven-time world champion added: “I’ll get by. I’m a bit sore but yeah. We’re hitting some serious speeds at the end here and it’s bouncing a lot.”
On the difference in performance in the two sessions, having ended P6 in FP1 and P12 in FP2, Hamilton added: “We tried something experimental on my car and it didn’t feel that great to be honest. But least we tried it and got some data on it and now we’ll go through it.
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“For tomorrow we’ll probably revert back to what we changed. Tyres feel to us like they’re working well. No issues. I just can’t really tell you, we’re 1.6 seconds or 1.3 seconds or whatever it is, that’s a long way away. A lot of it is on the straights.”
Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell has finished in the top five in all seven races so far this season but also encountered problems in Baku. He ended second practice seventh quickest but well over a second behind Leclerc, having been P8 in the first session.
Russell admitted: “It was a tricky day. We weren’t competitive as we would’ve liked. It’s a tricky track to get the tyres in the right window. A number of drivers, their fastest laps are coming right at the end of the run.
“Whereas with Ferrari and Red Bull they seem to be able to turn it on. At the moment they seem to have an inherently faster car than us. We’re doing everything we can to catch up. I think so [the tyres are making life difficult].
“Even if we’re totally on top of the tyres we’re definitely not going to fully close that gap, they’re just too far ahead. That’s 50 per cent of our issue, the rest is just the lack of performance we have at the moment.”
Sky Sports F1’s Naomi Schiff, the former W Series driver, said of Mercedes’ porpoising: “It’s uncomfortable. 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.”