With his Mercedes team trailing the defending champion Red Bull, Lewis Hamilton is resigned to a challenging start to the Formula 1 season.
The seven-time winner acknowledged that Mercedes “were not where we intended to start the season” in Bahrain.
Hamilton stated, “I knew where we were and the issues we are facing from the time I drove the car.
George Russell, a teammate, added: “It will be a difficult weekend if we want to battle for victory.”
Before this weekend’s season-opening race and following last week’s preseason testing, the general consensus in the paddock is that Red Bull, and in particular their lead driver and two-time champion Max Verstappen, are by a significant margin the best team in the field.
It is anticipated that Ferrari, Mercedes, and the significantly upgraded Aston Martin team will follow.
Red Bull are in a league of their own this weekend in Bahrain, but there will be a good battle for second place with Ferrari and Aston Martin, according to Russell.
Nonetheless, Hamilton and Russell expressed confidence that Mercedes could repeat their impressive season-long progress, in which they overcame a shaky start to finish first and second at the penultimate race.
As the season heats up, Russell said that there is no reason why we cannot engage in combat.
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Russell and Hamilton agreed that Mercedes had improved since preseason testing ended last week, and the team now has a new rear wing that they are hoping will help them close the deficit on Red Bull.
We are undoubtedly in a more secure position than on Friday night, Russell added, “but I’m not going to sit here and claim we’re going to discover that lap-time deficit to Red Bull.”
The car’s major issue from the previous year, a high-speed bouncing brought on by an aerodynamic weakness, Mercedes believes to be resolved.
Said Hamilton: “Positively, not having bouncing is a tremendous plus, and trying to figure out what the issues were when there was bouncing made it challenging to identify those issues. Now that we don’t, we can concentrate on pure performance.
“This squad and group of people have won multiple championships.”
Hamilton continued: “Hopefully those who are behind will keep putting pressure on Red Bull. Aston and Ferrari both have respectable packages, and we are also looking.
“I don’t anticipate Max erring. He is a world champion, so I wouldn’t doubt his tenacity and attention to detail.”
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both Carlos Leclerc and Max Verstappen
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari will seek for a more persistent title fight this season after fading after a promising start in 2022, but Max Verstappen of Red Bull’s preseason record suggests it will be extremely difficult to prevent the Dutchman from winning a third world championship.
Verstappen’s closest rival from the previous year, Charles Leclerc of Ferrari, said: “Max and Red Bull appear to be very powerful. Since it is still testing, it is difficult to say exactly how large of a lead they have over us, but there is still work to be done.
Although it is quite difficult to know where we stand, the big picture suggests that we are slightly behind.
Verstappen also said that the new Red Bull was superior “everywhere” to the vehicle that he used to win the title and set a record for most victories in a season last year.
Hamilton stated that his desire to remain with the club beyond the expiration of his current contract this season will be unaffected by Mercedes’ competitive standing.
I’ll still be here whether or not we have a challenging year this year, he declared. “We fight as a team, and I am a fighter. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with solutions, and I still think I can park the car in spots where maybe others can’t.
“Of course, I wish we had a wonderful car to start the season, but the journey is what matters. No problems exist with my contract. I’m very at ease; everything will be finished when we’re ready.”
Human rights concerns
Hamilton has questioned whether Formula One is having the desired impact in nations where alleged human rights violations are taking place.
As UK Lawmakers urged the sport’s executives to launch an independent investigation into the connections between grand prix racing and human rights violations this week, F1 insisted it thought it could be a force for change in the nations it visits.
Added Hamilton: “I am unable to say whether it has become worse. I’m not sure it’s gotten any better after we’ve been coming here for all these years; only in the latter years have I began to fully see the difficulties the locals face. Saudi About some of the issues there, I’ve read.
“I have always believed that if the sport is going to travel to these nations, we have a duty to spread awareness and work to make a difference there.
“Whether it be teams or individuals in high-power positions, that viewpoint has not always been shared in the sport, but there is no doubt that more needs to be done. Time will tell if that will actually occur.”