Hamilton delighted with Mercedes’ best-ever start to the season, but believes Ferrari, in particular, have plenty more up their sleeve
By Matt Morlidge and James Galloway
Last Updated: 15/04/19 5:13pm
Lewis Hamilton believes F1 2019 is still “up in the air” despite Mercedes’ perfect start to the season, insisting his team are currently operating at “full potential” while rivals have a lot more performance to find.
Mercedes have kicked-off the campaign with three consecutive one-twos, a feat not achieved since Williams in 1992, with Hamilton now leading the championship ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas after comfortably taking victory in China as Ferrari struggled for pace and with strategy.
The much-fancied and high-powered Ferrari have been blistering in spurts in 2019 but haven’t hooked up a complete weekend – throwing away a win in Bahrain – while Hamilton believes Mercedes have maximised their W10.
“I think we’re over-delivering a little bit at the moment to our true, true potential,” he claimed after the race.
But, well aware of Ferrari’s potential speed, Hamilton is adamant that the pattern and pecking order for the season has not been fixed.
“I think with what we have, we are operating at [our] full potential,” Hamilton reiterated to reporters. “But there will be more performance and improvements to come in the future, we will make steps forward.
“I think [in Bahrain], you can’t say that we necessarily won on full merit because we weren’t quick enough to win the race, but things happened along the way and you have to put yourself in position to get the wins, and we did that. I think [in Australia and China], it’s full-on merit.
“They’ve got a good car, the Ferraris, it just doesn’t look like they’re extracting their full potential on the weekends. And then the execution doesn’t look as faultless as they have shown in the past.
“We all have ups and downs, but that’s where we are really diligent in making sure our processes are as accurate as they can be.”
Mercedes have dominated this hybrid era but certainly didn’t expect their best-ever start to a season to come in F1 2019, when they were braced for their biggest battle yet with Ferrari and Red Bull.
But Red Bull haven’t been able to match the top two with chassis nor engine so far, while Ferrari were well off the pace in Australia, lost in Bahrain through unreliability, before looking on-par with Mercedes in China prior to qualifying, and they were then crushed in the race.
But Hamilton added: “We’re not getting ahead of ourselves, we’re naturally keeping our heads down and working. But we’ve got another close battle on our hands.
“I don’t know where the Red Bulls were but I know that the Ferraris are right there. I think we’ve got races coming up that could potentially suit them more. We didn’t expect to have the [advantage] in Melbourne, we didn’t expect to have the deficit [in Bahrain] and we didn’t expect this weekend to have the bit of advantage we had here. So it’s still up in the air.
“But ultimately as a team we’ve collectively performed, and we’ve really, really delivered on the weekends so we’ve just got to continue to do so.”
He continued: “The key this year is to deliver near-perfect weekends – weekend-in, weekend-out – and that has to be the goal.”
Will next races suit Ferrari?
While Ferrari’s engine appears to be far stronger than Mercedes, the world champions are recovering the lost time, and then some, in the corners with their well-balanced car.
“They were gaining something like four tenths on the straights overall but they were losing [time] in the corners,” said Hamilton. “It will be interesting to see how long they adopt that strategy in the coming races.”
But, as the Italian outfit showed in Bahrain, there will be grands prix where the track favours that philosophy – while the team have also acknowledged that they need to unlock and make huge improvements to their aerodynamic package.
The next races are in Baku, which features F1’s longest straight, and Barcelona, where Ferrari looked to have the fastest car in pre-season testing.
“In some places it will be great, like probably the next race, but other places maybe not so much,” added Hamilton. “There are still so many races where their car will perhaps outshine ours.”
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