Lewis Hamilton believes the midfield teams have closed the gap to the front-runners by around 50 percent due to the change in regulations over the winter.
Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull enjoyed a clear advantage over the rest of the field last season, often finishing a lap ahead of cars that finished inside the points. While Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has previously claimed stable regulations are the best way to achieve convergence, Hamilton – who doesn’t view Ferrari as the only major rival to Mercedes heading into the new season – believes the whole field has closed up, judging by what he saw in pre-season testing.
“I think it is the three teams, but also the teams at the back have closed up as far as I’m aware,” Hamilton said. “The whole pack has closed up. I don’t know which team is fourth currently, but they are a lot closer than they were before. There was like a second gap before, but now they are within half a second or maybe less, which is awesome.
“So depending on how their development is during the year and whether they have the capacity to develop as quickly as the top three teams will be the question, but it will be exciting. Maybe we will some races where Renault or the Racing Point will be a lot higher than they were in the past.”
With the top three teams enjoying the biggest budgets by a considerable margin, Hamilton is expecting a fierce development battle between them given the new avenues opened up by the latest regulation changes.
“Our teams – us, Ferrari and Red Bull – are all quite strong in that area, in terms of development. Red Bull in the past have had quite strong development during the years, been right up there with the best, but I think it’s all very, very close with us.
It is a development race, but I think I’ve got as strong a team as I could possibly have to fight that development battle. Naturally when you start one foot ahead it’s easier to stay… Or if you’re two or three steps ahead, it’s easier to keep at least one of those feet ahead throughout the year. Time will tell.”