Three-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says it’s Ferrari, not Mercedes, that should be considered favourite for the coming campaign at this point in the pre-season.
Hamilton’s Mercedes outfit has dominated F1 since the start of hybrid era in 2014 and has looked strong during the first week of 2017 pre-season testing, topping the timesheets with Hamilton’s new teammate Valtteri Bottas and racking up impressive numbers in the mileage category.
However, rival team Ferrari has looked a match for the German outfit throughout – and after a somewhat difficult run to start week two of testing, Hamilton reckoned the Italian marque currently seems to have the best chance at heading the pack.
Asked about Mercedes’ status as favourites, Hamilton said: “No, I think Ferrari must be the favourites. I think we can’t take our eyes off them because they have been doing such a great job at the moment.
“Red Bull look like they are quite good as well. We’ll see over the next days and, most importantly, over the next weeks, but it’s going to be close in the first race, that’s for sure.
The opening session of week two was actually topped by the Williams of Felipe Massa, and Hamilton said he would be glad to see the Grove-based team join the fight at the top of the championship.
“It would be amazing. Williams have had a serious dip for so many years, and they have been kind of strong over the last few years, and I really hope that they are up there. That’d be amazing.”
Mileage “sacrificed” to have car fixed for Bottas
Hamilton managed just 49 laps on Tuesday morning – his and Mercedes’ lowest yield from a pre-season test session in 2017 so far, aside from wet test session on Friday that he’d missed entirely.
The Briton ended his Tuesday running early as the team needed to repair the car’s damaged floor in time for the afternoon session.
“It didn’t feel spectacular this morning, but there was just some issues we had with tyre temps and with some damage to the floor,” Hamilton summed up.
“That’s why I sacrificed a little bit of my morning to make sure that the car was fixed in time for Valtteri this afternoon.”
Hamilton said he and the team didn’t get a lot done in the “pretty dull” morning run, and admitted he was looking forward to testing being over and done with.
“There’s not a huge amount of running because still today we have not a lot of testing days, not a huge amount of tyres, and with the running plan we have, you go out, you get 15-20 laps – it’s just for the team to get lots of mileage on the car.
“Testing days are really not my favourite, I would happily miss testing and just go to the race.”
Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble