Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes’ pace advantage is being overplayed and Ferrari is being underestimated despite Sebastian Vettel’s victory in the Australian Grand Prix.
An impressive qualifying performance saw Hamilton on pole position by nearly 0.7s and the defending champion was leading relatively comfortably in the first part of the race before a Virtual Safety Car period allowed Vettel to take the lead and hold on to win. Hamilton was clearly quicker than the Ferrari when running behind Vettel, but he says the pace shown by Kimi Raikkonen before the first round of the pit stops – with the gap never exceeding 3.4 seconds – highlights Ferrari’s potential.
“Well, I mean everyone’s talking about our ‘party mode’ and how much quicker we are; [Raikkonen] was very quick in the first stint it was not easy at all to pull away from him,” Hamilton said. “What I felt what I could have done is that I looked after my tires really well and I could have gone further.
“Now, I personally always like to go further and in my mind I was racing Sebastian. The Ferraris are always going to play one off the other; there’s two of them. They’ve got two aces or whatever, two jokers. You pit one guy which forces you to protect yourself on the undercut, but the other guy’s in the clear and in my mind I was like, ‘Just look out for No. 3,’ as that’s who I think I was racing.
“Kimi drove fantastically well, he was was generally quick all weekend. I am not convinced Sebastian did a good lap [in qualifying]. I think their performance is better than what it looked.”
While frustrated to miss out on victory, Hamilton also believes Mercedes should not be too downbeat having finished a close second and shown good pace throughout the opening weekend.
“Everyone in the team is feeling it, but there’s been so much great work, so much positivity to take forward with us. We still got second – it feels like a dark cloud, but it’s not. It’s still a positive result, we’ve got a great car and we are still the world champions and with a couple of adjustments we can win the next race. I believe that.”