We’ve only had eight days of proper running in 2019 so far – but reigning world champ Lewis Hamilton is already saying Mercedes have a ‘hill to climb’ to get on terms with rivals Ferrari, who set the pace over the majority of pre-season testing at Spain's Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
For most of testing, Mercedes appeared to be ‘sandbagging’ with their new W10, as Ferrari frequently headed the end-of-day timesheets. On the final day, however, Valtteri Bottas pumped in a seemingly representative lap of 1m 16.561s on Pirelli's softest C5 tyre, his time over 0.3s adrift of Ferrari’s best on the same rubber. And Hamilton thinks that the gap between Ferrari and Mercedes might be even bigger than that.
“I think it’s potentially half a second, something like that,” said Hamilton. “But we will be analysing a lot from this test and there will be some mods that we’ll try and implement before [Australia]. There’s obviously not a lot of time, but over this next week, hopefully we’ll gain another tenth at least just in our understanding of the car.
“Everyone also has different power modes and all those kind of things, and fuel usage – you don't know what fuel everyone else is on. So Melbourne will be kind of the first time you get a sight of it, and then, as always, every year I say it’s a good four races before you fully know just where you stand.
“This is going to be the toughest battle yet, which is exciting... for all the fans. But as I said, Ferrari, their pace is very, very good at the moment, so the challenge is going to be harder than ever.”