Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday that his Mercedes team is so off the pace at the start of the Formula One season that three teams need to pull out of the race for the seven-time champion to have a chance of winning.
Red Bull dominated the season-opener two weeks ago in Bahrain with a 1-2 finish from two-time defending world champion Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez. Fernando Alonso surprisingly finished third for Aston Martin and Carlos Sainz Jr. was fourth for Ferrari.
Hamilton was almost 51 seconds behind Verstappen in fifth, while teammate George Russell was 56 seconds back in seventh. Both finishes would have been worse if Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc had not had an engine failure towards the end of the race.
“We are not fighting for one (title). We need Red Bulls not to finish the race, and Ferrari not to finish the race and maybe now Aston to finish the race,” Hamilton said before the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Not to do it, so that we can win this time.
“None of us in this team have ever turned away from a challenge. We would love to be at the forefront, but it is not like that.”
Hamilton is tied with Michael Schumacher for the F1 record seven titles and is F1’s winningest driver with 103 wins and 103 poles. He failed to win a race last year for the first time in his F1 career that began in 2007.
His fear lies in his belief that Red Bull was not even at its best in Bahrain.
“I think in the race they weren’t pushing and I think they were quicker than they looked. We have the race as a second and a half faster per lap,” said Hamilton. We should be and are not where we want to be.
Hamilton was critical of Mercedes after the opening race, telling a BBC podcast that Mercedes had not listened to him regarding the development of this year’s car.
“I’ve driven a lot of cars in my life. I know what a car needs. I know what a car doesn’t need,” Hamilton told Radio 5 Live’s Checkered Flag podcast. . I think it’s really about accountability.” “It’s about being the boss and saying, ‘Yeah, you know what? We didn’t listen to you. This isn’t where it’s needed and we have to work.'”
Hamilton was asked again on Thursday about those comments, and said he was unimpressed by his criticism.
“Looking back, it wasn’t the best choice of words,” said the 38-year-old British driver. To communicate, we continue to work together.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff admitted in Bahrain that Mercedes made a mistake in the development of the car after Russell won his only race last year. Mercedes struggled with a ground effect known as “porpoising” and Russell was fourth in the 2022 standings, with Hamilton sixth.
The 2023 W14 car has very narrow bodywork, known in F1 as the “zero-sidepod” concept, but optimism didn’t last long and Russell said after Bahrain that Red Bull would win every race this season.
Hamilton believes he is right about the car’s limitations based on what he saw in pre-season testing. He added that Mercedes’ return to black cars made up for the shortcomings seen at the unveiling.
“I knew we weren’t in the right place. When you saw the car for the first time it still looked very different to our competitors. It’s always nerve-wracking in that moment,” he said. at some stage.”
Hamilton urged Mercedes – including himself – to step up.
“We all need a kick, we all need to get going. The proof is in the pudding, we’ve seen where the performances are and how people are extracting the performances. We now have to see the difference these guys (Red Bull) have made.” Some bold decisions have begun to be made, some big steps have been taken to close,” he said. “They will most likely run away this year, unless Ferrari can stop them. At some point during the year we hope we might be able to bridge the gap, but at that point maybe in terms of fighting for the championship It will be too late.
Hamilton said he was still determined to negotiate a new contract and remained firm in his belief that he could win again.
“I’ve been here a long time and I don’t plan to go anywhere else,” he said. “I will win again, it’s (just) going to take some time.” ,
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