Wrong to blame Elliott for ’bad’ Mercedes cars
"We can’t look at him negatively"
Mercedes’ race drivers say it’s wrong to scapegoat newly-departing Mike Elliot for the team’s ’no sidepods’ concept failure of 2022 and 2023.
Having now headed in a different direction with the latest upgrades, and with a "completely" new car coming for 2024, long-serving engineer Elliott - having been relegated from his technical director post earlier this year - has now left altogether.
But Lewis Hamilton says Elliott is not to blame for Mercedes’ recent problems.
"His contract was coming to an end and he has made the decision to move on," the seven time world champion said in Brazil. "We can’t look at him negatively.
Hamilton added that he hopes to maintain his "great relationship" with Elliott.
Teammate George Russell said of the 2023 single seater: "It’s not a bad car. And success is never achieved by one person. It’s always a team effort."
He insisted, however, that Mercedes "wanted too much" in terms of a big step between 2022 and 2023 - and made fundamental and rash development decisions.
"The work will be done more thoroughly now," said Russell. "We have limited ourselves to the most important weaknesses, and every decision will now be questioned and clarified three times instead of twice."
As for the current season, while Hamilton has secured back-to-back second places in Austin and Mexico since the latest floor upgrade, Russell has appeared to take an obvious personal step backwards.
He denies it: "I feel good with the new upgrades. The last two races have just been really bad but for different reasons.
"It’s not like I’m sitting here scratching my head wondering why the pace isn’t there, because I know that without these problems the pace would be there.
"I don’t want to make excuses," the 25-year-old, who had generally appeared the most comfortable Mercedes racer up until the latest upgrades, added.
"Honestly, I can feel the upgrade. But the car isn’t really different. It just has more downforce," said Russell, who admits that he and Hamilton have "different driving styles" and therefore unique aerodynamic setups.
Russell actually secured his breakthrough victory in Brazil a year ago, and Mercedes is expected to be strong again at Interlagos this weekend. However, he warned: "Red Bull are also a bit stronger than they were last year."
Something else Mercedes - and other teams - will have their eye on this weekend at Interlagos, the final ’sprint’ weekend of the year, is the kind of skid-plank wear that led to Hamilton’s disqualification in Austin.
"I think a lot of the teams will be approaching this one more conservatively," said Russell.