Lewis Hamilton is confident Mercedes have fixed the problems which marred their Formula 1 season - but he still isn't holding his breath in anticipation of a 2024 title fight.

That may prove to be a step too far with Max Verstappen so dominant this year and his Red Bull team having got a head start on their car development for next term.

Mercedes have been aimless for the past two seasons. But seven-time world champion Hamilton is convinced that his team is finally back on the right path.

"We didn't have a North Star necessarily at the beginning of the year, knowing exactly where we needed to work towards," he told Motorsport.com. "And it's been kind of a zigzag line trying to 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.

"I do believe we have a North Star now, which I don't think we've had for two years. Still, getting there is not a straight line. 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.

"If you look at the Red Bull, and they've done an amazing job, but from Bahrain last year, they had a bouncing issue and fixed it that week. It is like if you're trying to build a wall. It was one brick after the other - brick, brick, brick. Just development, development, development.

"Maybe they added something, and it didn't add performance, but they were still building. For us, we had to knock down the wall. We had a lot of aero on that first car last year, but we had to basically knock a ton of downforce off it and then slowly tried to add it.

Lewis Hamilton thinks Mercedes can get their F1 plans back on track (
HOCH ZWEI/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

"But every time we tried to add it, it was worse. We just didn't improve for a long, long, long time. So, you can imagine they [Red Bull] are progressing. And we're going [nowhere]. Then, eventually, it's slowly coming up while they're continuing.

"That gap... We are just on massively different trajectories. But I think we understand the car so much better now. We have developed great tools in the background. So naturally, I'm hopeful. But I'm not going to hold my breath."

Mercedes will need to make enormous progress over the next 12 weeks if they are to have any chance of competing with Red Bull next year. In order to try to achieve that, team principal Toto Wolff admits his team is taking an enormous risk.

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"We are changing the concept. We are completely moving away from how we laid out the chassis, the weight distribution, the airflow," he said. "I mean, literally, there's almost every component that's being changed because only by doing that, I think we have a chance."

However, he followed that up with a warning: "We could get it wrong also. So, between not gaining what we expect, catching up and making a big step and competing in the front, everything is possible."

Speaking about finishing second this year, Wolff added: "I think we need to take it on the chin, be humble about it and consider it a good day. Nevertheless, there's a Mount Everest to climb in order to catch up with Red Bull. I have no doubt that McLaren is going to be right in the mix next year, and maybe Aston Martin and maybe others."