Lewis Hamilton believes the drivers’ championship could come down to which team gets the better of the development battle between Mercedes and Ferrari.
A dominant pole position in the Australian Grand Prix marked Hamilton out as the early title favorite and he looked well placed to take victory before a Safety Car period allowed Sebastian Vettel to take the lead and hold on to win. The Ferrari was the quicker car as Vettel won again in Bahrain, and the German has taken pole position at each of the last three races.
Having admitted the win that saw him take the championship lead in Baku was lucky, Hamilton says his title hopes could come down to how well Mercedes develops its car compared to Ferrari.
“I think the performance upgrade battle will be important, to see how that development goes between both teams,” Hamilton said. “I think more unlocking the potential of the car. Australia, we started on the right foot on the Friday and it progressed and got better and better. Since then, every weekend we’ve generally started a couple of steps – at least – behind the Ferraris and struggled to catch up.
“So while there has been a lot of work that has been done, performance-wise, we are still behind them. If you look at them, they had a little bit more downforce [in Baku] yet they were a little bit slower on the straights but quicker through all the corners.
“The middle sector was always three tenths up, three or four tenths up, which we just couldn’t catch up, so their package really suited that track perfectly, I would say. Maybe ours did in Australia but I would imagine they just didn’t unlock their potential in that race, particularly, and since then have.
“But I don’t think we’re under any illusions that we have the fastest car or that we don’t have work to do. We know that. Everyone’s working as hard as they can but we’ve got to keep pushing – really got to keep pushing.
“I’ve got to figure out how to get on top of this car a little bit more. Australia, as I said, I was really comfortable with it and since then I’ve not been and I don’t really know why, so I’ve got to try and work on that.”