Lewis Hamilton says he has never seen a Formula 1 car as fast in comparison to its rivals as this year’s Red Bull. The seven-time champion believes that the straight-line speed with which Max Verstappen overtook him in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix exceeds any advantage Mercedes had in the past.
Red Bull has started the season with back-to-back one-two finishes, as Sergio Perez won in Jeddah while Verstappen climbed through from 15th on the grid to finish second. Although he was helped by a safety car period, Verstappen had already cleared Hamilton on lap 12 using DRS before Turn 1, and while Hamilton isn’t sure if the dominance could cost the sport fans, he says it’s a pace differential he hasn’t experienced before.
“I don’t know it’s not for me to say, but I’ve never seen a car so fast,” Hamilton said. “When we were fast we weren’t that fast. That’s the fastest car I’ve seen compared to the rest — I don’t know why or how but he came past me with serious speed. I didn’t even bother to block because there was a massive speed difference.
Smoooooth overtaking from Max Verstappen in Jeddah 🧈 #SaudiArabianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/NZBKKhnXGy
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 20, 2023
“Of course I think everyone wants to see everyone close, but it’s the way it is. Not my problem or fault.”
However, Hamilton — who enjoyed dominance in the early years of the V6 era with Mercedes — has no concerns over the Red Bull’s legality, adding: “No, I can’t question that, I just assume they’ve done a better job.”
Hamilton was downbeat after qualifying in Jeddah as he felt he couldn’t find any confidence with his Mercedes, and despite a stronger showing in the race that resulted in both cars finishing the top five, he says he still lacks that faith in the car.
“No, I think it’s the same, still a long way off Red Bull. Definitely strange to see Ferrari were behind us — positive for us. Different surface here and we don’t really understand why this surface and our car works in one way and it’s different in another. Lots of positives to take from this weekend — it will be up and down throughout the first few races. Hopefully we can get some upgrades as soon as possible and try and close that gap to the faster cars.”