After their competitive woes continued into 2023, Mercedes made fundamental changes to the design of their W14 challenger at the Monaco Grand Prix, where the team finally abandoned their unique and controversial ‘zeropod’ philosophy.
Mercedes are planning a major overhaul - that was not possible during the season just gone due to cost cap restrictions - of their 2024 car as they look to cure their weaknesses and return to title-challenging ways.
“We didn't have a North Star necessarily at the beginning of the year, knowing exactly where we needed to work towards,” Hamilton told BBC Sport.
“And it's been kind of a zigzag line trying to frickin’ get to where we need to be. Every now and then something positive happens, you're like, 'Okay, that's it.' And then it shifts, so the goalpost is always moving, which is typical.”
But the seven-time world champion added: "I do believe we have a North Star now. Which I don't think we've had for two years. But still getting there is not a straight line.
"And there were just certain things, decisions that have been made, that just left you blocked at the end of a road, and you can't do anything because of the cost cap and all these different things.”
Hamilton admitted Red Bull’s pace at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where Max Verstappen cruised to a record-extending 19th win from 22 races, is “definitely a concern” for Mercedes heading into the winter.
"If you look at the Red Bull - and they have done an amazing job - from Bahrain last year, they had a bouncing issue and they fixed it that week. And then you can imagine, if you're trying to build a wall, they are one brick after the other, just development, development, development,” he explained.
"Maybe they added something and it didn't add performance. But they were still building. Whereas for us, we had to knock down the wall, if you like, in terms of aero.
"We had a lot of aero on that first car last year. We had to basically knock a ton of downforce off it and then slowly try to add. But every time we tried to add, it was worse. So we just didn't improve for a long, long, long time.
"I think we understand the car so much better. They have developed great tools in the background. So, naturally, I'm hopeful. But I'm not going to hold my breath.”
Hamilton admitted Mercedes’ struggles have impacted confidence within the team.
"You can imagine they are also nervous of making too big a change and it being the wrong one," he said. "And we have higher targets than ever before because we've got a massive gap to close. That makes it really tricky."