Lewis Hamilton admits “it would mean even more” to win the drivers’ championship this season given the level of opposition Mercedes is facing from Ferrari and Red Bull.
Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the second race in a row at the Chinese Grand Prix but it was Daniel Ricciardo who secured victory, meaning Mercedes has gone three races without a win for the first time in the V6-turbo era. Hamilton himself was outside the top three in both qualifying and the race, and with strong levels of performance from two rival teams this year he suggests this championship would rank higher than his previous four.
“There’s not really much to say on it, who knows what the season holds?” Hamilton said. “If we continue the way it is it’s going to be tough to win. If there is an opportunity and we were to finish on top it would mean even more because it’s an even tougher season than before.”
Having called on Mercedes to bring its ‘A-game’ to each race due to Ferrari’s strong start, Hamilton says there was no obvious reason why he subsequently didn’t perform at his best in Shanghai.
“I definitely feel like I was on top of my game [in China]. I came and prepared exactly the same as always, I just struggled with the car. Rather than blame it on whether it’s strategy or anything else, I just was uncomfortable in the car all weekend, well Saturday and Sunday.
“To not have the pace, the pace level that I would normally have, I have got to take it upon myself to try and figure it out and move forward. But of course it is a joint effort, but definitely on my side we struggled more.”
Hamilton’s mention of strategy is a reference to Red Bull pitting both drivers for fresh soft tires under a Safety Car period that ultimately saw both Ricciardo and Max Verstappen enjoy a pace advantage. But the defending champion says he understands the reasons why Mercedes opted not to do the same with him.
“It doesn’t really make a difference. It doesn’t matter now, it’s done. We move forward. The team made the decision I would’ve fallen behind Kimi [Raikkonen], at the time we didn’t know that we will have the collisions and all that stuff ahead, so at the time it was not the right decision.”