Lewis Hamilton says his team-mate Valtteri Bottas has stepped up in 2019 and Ferrari needs to do the same to break Mercedes’ record-breaking start to the season.
Bottas won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Hamilton to give Mercedes its fourth consecutive one-two finish from the start of the year. No other team has ever opened a season so strongly, and Hamilton says his team-mate’s improvement, coupled with Ferrari’s inability to maximize its own potential, is the reason neither Sebastian Vettel nor Charles Leclerc have yet finished in the top two.
“Valtteri’s really, clearly stepped up this year and is really happy in the car and really delivering and driving fantastically, so it’s going to take some really great performances from both of us to out-perform each other,” Hamilton said. “And that’s how it should be. Hopefully at some stage Ferrari will be in the mix with us.
“I do think they had the performance to be on the front row with both of their cars (in Baku). From our data we saw that Seb didn’t get a tow, for example, which is worth four or five tenths or something, so he probably would have been on pole had he got that tow and the race would have been maybe more exciting.
“So, again, it takes one hundred percent to deliver throughout the weekend, which we, I think, were as close to that as possible. They’re going to have to pick it up if they want to fight us.”
After a number of years where Mercedes has produced cars described as “divas”, Hamilton says the 2019 version is also far from perfect, but the team has learned how to deal with different issues.
“It’s an evolution of the last couple of years cars, so it should be better, and it is in many ways. I would say it’s more our understanding of the procedures that we have to implement that allow us to deliver more from it,” he said.
“I think we’re able to extract a bit more from the car itself, and that’s just from due diligence we’ve done so much better through testing in our understanding and analysis. Everyone’s just taken a step forward, and it’s great to see.”