What’s behind Mercedes’ “desperate” experiments? Ex-F1 mechanic shares theory

A former F1 mechanic has shared his theory for why Mercedes are experimenting with extreme set-ups.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 5, Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, China, Sprint
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd…

Former F1 mechanic Marc Priestley has explained what he thinks is behind Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton’s decision to carry out extreme set-up experiments.

After claiming his best result of the season by finishing second to Max Verstappen in the Chinese Grand Prix sprint, Hamilton could only qualify 18th for the grand prix, before recovering to ninth.

The seven-time world champion admitted that, not for the first time this season, he had steered into trouble by making an aggressive set-up change on his Mercedes W15 which led to his poor performance.

Priestley, who worked with Hamilton at McLaren, believes the experiments show how “desperate” Mercedes are to turn their fortunes around after a challenging few seasons in F1’s current regulation era.

“Why is he is experimenting? What is all of that about?” Priestley said on the latest video for his YouTube channel.

“I think the point is, first of all they are desperate. They have a car that just isn't working and they are really struggling to get anything out of it.

“Lewis is in his final year with the team, of course he wants to get some kind of result out of this. He knows he’s not going to win the championship, but he does want to try and unlock something that will give him a chance to perform.

“He’s not just checking out already and desperate to leave. I think they’ll be a huge amount of frustration, but I think he genuinely would love to find a way to turn that car into some kind of good result.

“That is effectively what he is trying to do here. Go in a completely different direction. One end of a spectrum if you like, when it comes to set-up changes, in the hope, a massive gamble, that it might do something.

“A part of this is that the team and the drivers are desperate.”

(L to R): George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 on the drivers' parade. Formula 1
(L to R): George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton (GBR)…

Hamilton is enduring his worst-ever start to an F1 season and has largely been outperformed by teammate George Russell across the opening five rounds in 2024.

Priestley suggested this could be another reason for the aggressive experimenting - particularly on Hamilton’s side of the garage.

“I think there’s also a little part of this when it comes to Lewis that he is struggling,” he added.

“He is being beaten by George Russell on a consistent basis now and if you say you are going to do some massive experiment and gamble on things like set-up, it takes a little bit of the pressure off.

“I don’t want to say the word excuses, I don’t want to suggest it’s just giving him excuses to not perform, but to some extent it does do that. It takes a little bit of the pressure off if you are being beaten.

“It gives you a reason, or an explanation, for why your car isn’t working and why your performance isn’t matching that of your teammate.

“Lewis is a very experienced guy, seven-time world champion, perhaps he doesn’t need to prove anything at all. But that’s perhaps one of the things that might be going into this decision-making process.

“We’ll see if that continues to happen. But this is a team that is desperate, a driver that’s desperate and I think that is why these kind of things are happening.” 

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