Lewis Hamilton has revealed a change to the suspension and set-up of his Mercedes since the Singapore Grand Prix has been responsible for his dip in form relative to Nico Rosberg in recent races, adding that it is a modification he will be forced to adapt to for 2016.
In the wake of his defeat to Rosberg in the Brazilian Grand Prix – his second in succession at the hands of his team-mate - the Englishman cryptically suggested changes to the car since September's Singapore GP had played their part in his relative struggles.
Indeed, though Hamilton won the following Japan, Russia and USA events to seal the 2015 title, the latter two races saw Rosberg arguably display the upper hand in terms of raw pace. Furthermore, Hamilton hasn't started from pole position since the Italian Grand Prix either having accumulated 12 out of the 13 races prior to that.
Hamilton has now revealed Mercedes initiated a change to the suspension after the Singapore race, where the team unusually struggled, and he hasn't felt as comfortable with the balance since then. However, while the team predicted a gain of a tenth and a half, Hamilton says his 'three to six tenths' margin over Rosberg is now a deficit as a result.
“There is part of the suspension which is worth just over a tenth of a half I think, something I didn't think was working for me so I took it off [for Abu Dhabi]. I have been using it for the last six races, but I tried to work around it and get back to where we were with it, but obviously we tried something different and it didn't work so well.
“I am just trying to figure out why I can't seem to get a comfortable balance with the car. If you look before Singapore it was in the region between three to six tenths gap between myself and Nico in qualifying, apart from Barcelona where there was a problem with the tyre heaters so without that we would have been in a good position to fight for pole there… since then a lot of time has been lost. Whilst it looks like one side has gone a lot better, from our point of view as a team it has gotten worse.
“All 12, apart from Barcelona, the car was great. Since [Singapore] it has been terrible laps, terrible balance… particularly today. We need to figure out a way. There must be a way. Nico's car looks like it is really well underneath him. It is not over now and in the race it is generally quite good, so we need to figure why it isn't in qualifying
Hamilton goes on to say it isn't a change can reverse either, but maintains he will see it as a 'challenge' to adapt to it.
“I knew we made a change but I didn't think it would make a huge difference, but from Suzuka afterwards the car was already trickier from then on.
“What we have will go on to next year. I think they said they [Mercedes] don't think they made the car particularly slower, but it definitely isn't faster. And we can't go back to what it was before because they don't want to go back to what it was before.”