McLaren got off to a disastrous start to the 2009 season as Brawn GP took the lead with its dual diffuser, then Red Bull Racing became the regular winner.
In the first half of the season, Hamilton only scored fourth, sixth and seventh, regularly finishing out points.
However, the Woking team worked hard to develop their troublesome car, and Hamilton eventually came back to win two races in Hungary and Singapore, and take four pole positions.
Hamilton cited the MP4-24 as an example of how the team can turn around the underperforming car within a season.
“There are people watching and saying I’ve never had a bad car before,” he said after finishing 14th at the Imola Sprint.
“And I can assure you I did. The 2009 car was very, very far, the worst car I have ever owned.
“This car is not far from that experience right now, but I think it has a lot of potential.
“As I did that car, we eventually fixed it and got back to the fight or in the game. And I have great confidence that my team can do it here too.”
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren MP4-24 Mercedes
Photography: Rainer W. Schlegelmilch/Sports Images
Expanding on what went wrong in 2009, Hamilton said McLaren underestimated how much downforce it had to fall back on after the winter rules change.
“The scenario in 2009 was that I was in my third year in the sport, it was a whole new era for cars,” he recalls.
“And I remember being back on the team in February or January, and I remember the aerodynamics chiefs and the team guys at the top being like, ‘Oh, we’ve already hit our target. “
“The new rules say we’ll have 50% less downforce in 2009, so they designed the car to have 50% less downforce! And I remember in February, we were like, ‘Oh, we’ve already hit our target.'” ‘ And I said, ‘That doesn’t sound right…’
“But I didn’t have the experience at the time. We obviously got to the first test and realized the others had about the same amount of downforce as the year before.
And they were like, ‘Oh shoot, we have to work to get that back. “The final flag for that was a double diffuser. And we’ve got there.”
Hamilton stressed that Mercedes had not made a similar mistake with the W13, and that the porpoise had knocked out the team.
“It’s different because the team wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we’ve already hit our target. “We didn’t know where everyone was going to be, they were very innovative in the design, and our wind tunnel was telling us we had really good downforce.
“Unfortunately, we got on the right track and didn’t see it… There was no recoil, for example, in a wind tunnel. And we came across this phenomenon.
“This experience is more difficult to fix than we ever imagined. But like I said, not only will it kill us, it will make us stronger. And we’ll find a solution one way or another.”