Formula 1 arrives in Las Vegas to race under the neon lights of the Strip for the first time aiming to put on a show befitting the city’s self-styled tagline of the Entertainment Capital of the World.
For Mercedes, the desire to deliver a competitive performance on the brand-new street layout is particularly strong coming as it does on the back of their dismal showing at the last race in Brazil, which team boss Toto Wolff described as his worst weekend in F1.
Speaking in exclusive interviews with Sky Sports News at a Mercedes and IWC event in Las Vegas ahead of the race weekend, Hamilton said the team now “100 per cent know what went wrong” with the set-up of the W14 at Interlagos, but they cannot be certain yet how a car that has been unpredictable all season will fare in Vegas.
“Still ultimately, we didn’t do a good job,” added Hamilton, who finished in seventh place and 63 seconds behind race winner Max Verstappen in Brazil.
“But a lot of learnings from it in terms of where we need to go and where we need to develop.
“Through failure there is always a lot of things mostly you learn from those experiences. So coming here I think hopefully we have a better approach but we still don’t know how the car is going to be here.”
Mercedes have two races left to avoid their first winless campaign since 2011 – two seasons before Hamilton and Wolff joined what would become F1’s dominant team. But their biggest priority is securing second place in the constructors’ championship, in which they hold a 20-point lead over Ferrari.
“It’s still not a world championship-winning car and I don’t even think it’s probably a race-winning car still. That’s what we’re going to have to work on for next year,” said Hamilton, who last won a race in Saudi Arabia in December 2021.
“But either way we’re going to be fighting to try and stay ahead of the Ferrari and the fact that we are competing for second in the constructors’ title is amazing given from where we started. So I’m really hopeful we can maintain that position.”
Team-mate George Russell, speaking to Sky Sports at the same promotional event at Speed Vegas, said the chilly night-time conditions that the floodlit track sessions are set to take place under this weekend could make the event a “weekend of opportunity” in a season totally dominated by Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
“It’s definitely going to be a bit of an unknown because these Pirelli tyres are challenging at the best of times. But they’re developed to operate in warm climates,” said Russell.
“We always talk about the temperature of the tarmac and it normally operates between 30-60 degrees whereas estimates are probably between 10-15 degrees here. So twice as cold as the tyres are used to dealing with. So qualifying’s going to be difficult to get your temperature in [to them]. The race, the tyres are going to be graining.
“So it’s going to be a weekend of opportunity.
“But, who knows, maybe we go out there, the tyres are performing well and we see them the same order as we have done recently.”
‘We know why we’re slow’ | Can Mercedes deliver for 2024?
Mercedes’ longer-term objective remains to return to championship contention and the upcoming F1 off-season therefore represents a crucial winter for them as they build what they have confirmed will be a very-different 2024 contender.
Russell says he and Hamilton have been aligned in their feedback on the W14 through this year. He insists Mercedes understand why they have been off Red Bull’s pace – and now intended to turn that understanding into a big 2024 step forward.
“We have different driving styles but the fundamental limitations that we both face are the same,” Russell told Sky Sports News.
“Each weekend we alternative who goes first in our post-session debrief and often whoever speaks second says the same as what he said. So that’s always a good sign when the driver speaking second, whichever weekend it is, says the same as what he said because it shows we are on the same page. It shows the issues are clear.
“We are cautiously optimistic going into next year. We are not sat here thinking ‘why are we slow?’ We know why we’re slow. We have got so many issues with this car and so many problems that we want to solve. So that gives us hope that if we do solve them, we can make a big step forward. But we need to go out there and actually achieve that.”
Asked if he would be involved at the factory in the winter work even more compared to past years, Hamilton replied “We have had so much work that we’ve done through the year already. I am on a group Teams chat basically with different departments and I will always be checking in. But, of course, I am going to unplug; I have to leave the guys to do what they do best. But I’m always going to be like ‘hey, I wonder how it’s going?’
“But you’ve just got to give them time, it takes time to develop. It’s small steps each week. And then, on top of that, I’ve got to get my head in the right place, I’ve got to get fit, prepare for the next season and spend some time with my family. It’s been a killer season.”
Wolff on ‘personal anger and drive’ to get Hamilton record eighth title
Hamilton earlier this year extended his deal at Mercedes by an additional two years, meaning the 38-year-old has at least two more seasons to win what would be a record-breaking eighth world title.
Speaking in an interview with the PA news agency, Mercedes boss Wolff made clear his burning desire for the team to deliver a car for Hamilton to achieve that feat two years on from the controversial events of the title-deciding Abu Dhabi GP of 2021, when then-race director Michael Masi failed to apply the correct Safety Car rules.
“We are living in a hamster wheel where time passes so quickly that it doesn’t feel like it has been two years,” said Wolff.
“You can see how quickly the pecking order changes. We won eight constructors’ championships in a row, and it has been two years since Red Bull have been taking the trophy home. But we have to look forward, learn from the past, and the push now is to make Lewis win quickly again.
“I have a personal anger, and drive to make him win the eighth title because he should have had it.
“As a team principal, it is important to be fair and open with both drivers. But there is a big part of us that will always want to be a part of that story in undoing and overcoming 2021.”
When to watch the Las Vegas GP live on Sky Sports
Thursday November 16
- 5:30am: Drivers’ Press Conference (reshown at 8am and 10:45am)
- 1:45pm: Las Vegas GP Opening Ceremony
Friday November 17
- 4am: Las Vegas GP Practice One (session starts at 4.30am)
- 7:45am: Las Vegas GP Practice Two (session starts at 8am)
- 9:15am: The F1 Show: Las Vegas
Saturday November 18
- 4:15am: Las Vegas GP Practice Three (session starts at 4.30am)
- 7am: Las Vegas Grand Prix Qualifying build-up (also on Sky Showcase)
- 8am: Las Vegas GP Qualifying (also on Sky Showcase)
- 10am: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook
Sunday November 19
- 4:30am: Grand Prix Sunday: Las Vegas GP build-up (also on Sky Showcase)
- 6am: THE LAS VEGAS GRAND PRIX (also on Sky Showcase)
- 8am: Chequered Flag: Las Vegas GP reaction (also on Sky Showcase)
- 9am: Ted’s Notebook (also on Sky Showcase)
Get ready for the big one: Formula 1 in Las Vegas! See drivers race down the Strip, and past landmarks like Caesars Palace and the Bellagio, on F1’s newest street track. Watch the whole Las Vegas GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1, starting this Friday with lights out on Sunday at 6am. Stream F1 on Sky Sports with NOW