Hamilton: Ferrari looking 'very, very strong'
The F1 timesheets have made for good reading for Ferrari so far this week, with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc taking a turn each to top the times in pre-season testing. Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton has conceded the Prancing Horse look “very, very strong” - but insists he's not worried just yet...
Mercedes, last year's constructors' champions, don’t tend to chase headline laptimes in testing, and that has been the pattern the Silver Arrows have followed in the opening two days of running in Barcelona.
In contrast, Ferrari have dominated the timesheets, showing the best speed in each of the three sectors, as well as clocking up more than 300 laps.
“Ferrari are very, very strong right now,” said Hamilton, who was speaking to reporters during the lunch break on Day 3. “As you have seen, they are racking up great mileage as well and it appears that they have a better package than they had last year, which means it is going to be even more of a challenge for us this year.
“Ferrari always looks particularly strong, for the last few years they have looked very strong, so that is to be expected. For us, we are just going about our process and trying to understand, so as I said everyone is working incredibly hard.
“At the moment I don't worry about anything. I just try to focus on our job I don't know what everyone is doing, there are different fuel loads. I have been in this business a long time so I know how it goes over the first and into the second week.
“It's not a time when we need to focus on others, we let everyone else do their thing and really dig deep and focus on making sure our processes are better than ever before, that we are analysing the data better than ever before and that from a driver’s point of view the feedback is more accurate than ever before. That is what we are trying to focus on and making sure we get though our run plans.”
Unbeaten in both championships since the V6 era began in 2014, Mercedes have been the yardstick against which other teams are measured - and Hamilton says it's important they continue to raise the bar as they bid to react the best to the new aerodynamic regulations for this season, which involve revised front and rear wings.
“Right now we are competing against our past selves as a team,” he said. “We are trying to raise the bar in all those areas. All the engineers at the factory are raising the bar. It has been super impressive to see the atmosphere within the team after all these years of success.
“I have heard from the guys it was probably the most difficult [winter], with the rule change once again. But if anyone can do it, I truly believe it is my guys. We are the only team to have won a championship in a crossover of rules situation.”
It may be early days, but everything points to an epic battle for dominance in 2019.