Hamilton: Red Bull are “a second and a half faster in the race per lap”

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By Luke-John Buckle

Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull are “a second and a half faster in the race per lap” in race trim.

Mercedes suffered a lacklustre campaign last year by their lofty standards, taking just one win through George Russell at the São Paulo Grand Prix.

The Brackley-based team found themselves fourth fastest last time out in Bahrain, behind their customer team Aston Martin.

”Last year we were very draggy, and we were struggling not only on the straights, but we had to take a much bigger wing and we were equalling if not losing in the corners as well,” Hamilton said when asked to explain where Mercedes’ deficit is.

“This year it’s mostly through the corners. Down the straights we’re quick, but on exits these guys have a lot of rear end through the majority of the corners.

“So, I think in the race they weren’t pushing and so I think they’re a lot quicker than they even seemed. We have it as them being a second and a half faster in the race per lap or something like that.

“We need all these Red Bulls not to finish the race, the Ferraris not to finish the race, maybe now the Aston Martins not to finish the race, for us to be winning at the moment. But that doesn’t mean we can’t catch them up.”

After Hamilton’s fifth place finish in Bahrain, the seven-time world champion said Mercedes didn’t listen to some of his concerns on the car development.

He explained on Thursday that it “wasn’t necessarily the best choice of words” but he felt like the team wouldn’t be able to get nearer to the front once he was the concepts deployed by the other teams.

“In hindsight, it wasn’t necessarily the best choice of words,” he reflected. “But of course, there are times where you’re not in agreement with certain team members.

“But what’s important is that we continue to communicate, we continue to pull together, I still have 100% belief in this team.”

On Mercedes sticking to its unique ‘zeropod’ concept, he added: “I knew that we weren’t in the right place when you saw the car for the first time.

“It looked still so much different to those of our competitors and it’s always nerve-racking in that moment.”

Hamilton agreed with the Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff that “bold decisions” would need to be made after the mediocre performance in Bahrain.

“We’ve seen the proof is in the pudding and we’ve seen where the performance is and how people are extracting the performance,” Hamilton explained.

“We’ve got to now start making some bold decisions, some big moves in order to close the gap to these guys. [Red Bull] will run away with it most likely this year, unless Ferrari can probably stop them, but hopefully at some point during the year we’re hopeful we might be able to close the gap.

“At that point, it’ll be probably too late in terms of fighting for a championship, but we could still turn some heads.”

When asked if those decisions had already been made in the wake of a disappointing start, he said: “I think we’re in the process of it, yes.”