Lewis Hamilton warns Mercedes there is a danger it could push too far in trying to close the gap it believes to exist to Ferrari ahead of the new Formula 1 season.
Ferrari looked quick throughout pre-season testing, with race simulations suggesting Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc to be favorites heading to next weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. While Hamilton had the pace to get within 0.003s of Vettel’s best time, he has previously estimated Ferrari’s advantage to be as much as half a second and says Mercedes has to be careful not to make mistakes trying to close that gap.
“It doesn’t make it easier, that’s for sure,” Hamilton said of needing to raise his own game in the face of Ferrari’s performance. “Naturally it makes it harder. Already last year there were many, many occasions where we as a team were behind on performance so we had to overachieve on delivery. Now we just have to reach even further than we did last year when we were behind.
“We weren’t behind anywhere near as much as that, I would say, last year. That means we have to squeeze our performance even more — but we’re going to have to be careful also in that scenario, because that can just push you over the edge and you can have faults.
“But I’ve got the best team around. We’ve got experience. It’s no coincidence that we’re world champions, so we just have to be diligent and stay balanced.
“As a driver, for sure I’ve got to figure out ‘how can I pull more out?’ Which I don’t have a current answer for.”
Mercedes heavily updated its 2019 car for the second week of pre-season testing, and with Ferrari opting for a different front wing philosophy under new regulations, Hamilton admits his team will be trying to work out if it should follow suit.
“Currently we don’t hold that (different concept). Of course there’s a question mark over whether they have the right philosophy or whether we have the right philosophy. Time will tell. The engineers will be analyzing both, that’s what they do.
“I’m sure Ferrari as a team — probably all the other teams — do the same thing; they will look at the other options. But we know the car has not been optimal in these two weeks (of testing). We might tweak it but that does take time, so I don’t have an answer for you about when that will be.”