'Unfair' Judgements About Hamilton's Disadvantage Dismissed By Mercedes Technical Director

Thursday, 20 June 2024 at 12:00
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Mercedes technical director James Allison chimed in on the speculation about Lewis Hamilton being put at a disadvantage during qualifying sessions.
Following the ninth round of the 2024 season in Canada, the head-to-head score between the seven-time World Champion and his teammate George Russell was 1-8 in qualifying and 2-7 in Grand Prix results.
Interestingly, the actual delta between the two Mercedes drivers is one of the smallest on the grid. However, the 26-year-old has almost always managed to beat Lewis Hamilton by a tiny margin.
What was common to see at Mercedes during the first nine race weekends was that the 39-year-old very often looked stronger in practice sessions, but once the qualifying came, he seemed to lose the edge over his teammate.
In fact, Hamilton complained he tends to lose two tenths going into every qualifying session for whatever reason and said he does not expect to beat Russell in qualification this year.
This statement sparked speculations amongst the F1 community on whether Mercedes could already be secretly prioritizing their younger driver, who won't be leaving at the end of this season. James Allison addressed these speculations, speaking on F1’s Beyond the Grid podcast:

"I think if you just look at the stats, 8-1, 7-1 back then, maybe it would be reasonable to think if that trend continues, there won't be many times when he'll be on pole."

“I think that if you try and read into that stuff that isn’t there, like somehow he’s got a systematic disadvantage on qualifying day, that’s not true and not fair.

So, do the two Mercedes drivers have identical cars? The technical director clarified they do. There has been one occasion (in Monaco) where they didn't, but it was already explained that it happened because of Hamilton's choice.

"So far as we can make it, the cars are identical. But they have the chance to have identical stuff if they choose."

"I wouldn't have predicted 8-1. And I think that for a chunk of the year, the car has been a pretty troubled beast."

While Mercedes struggled in no man's land in P4 in the Championship during the first couple of weekends, in Canada, the German team had a car that could compete for victory.
Recently introduced upgrades seemed to have eliminated W15 problems, and both Silver Arrows drivers were able to extract much more performance from it. Allison asserted judgments about who is better will become more meaningful now as the car improves even more. He added:

"It's become a much, much better car in the last two or three races and, with that, I think the judgments about who may or may not put it in front of the other car become more meaningful, because the car is less of a random number generator."

"Lewis has, not by accident, been the best qualifier in the history of the sport, because I think he's been the best driver in the sport, but he's struggling to make it stick this year by fine margins, as you say."