Lewis Hamilton confident Mercedes can take seismic step to close Red Bull gap
Lewis Hamilton is confident that Mercedes can make an even more seismic step than last season to close the gap on Red Bull in a one-sided 2023 Formula One World Championship.
F1 front-runners Red Bull sealed a one-two at the first two races of this season with victory for Max Verstappen at the season opener in Bahrain and team-mate Sergio Perez taking the win in Saudi Arabia two weekends ago.
Hamilton and Mercedes have been in the region of a second a lap off their pace but the seven-time world champion is confident they can emulate a difficult 2022 in which they were well off the pace initially but proved race winners through team-mate George Russell by the season’s end.
“If we put our heads down and chip away at this, we can really make a difference,” he said in the build-up to Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix. “We already did that last year and we can do it bigger and better than last year.
“There’s lots of work going on. I’m just trying to make sure I stay consistent and I’m training quite a lot between races, and I’m the fittest I can be so that at some stage I do get the car that we’ve all been hoping for. If that happens, whether that’s two or 10 or 20 races away, I want to make sure I’m ready for that day.”
Hamilton struggled throughout the weekend in Saudi with the W14 but was buoyed by his fifth-place finish, a spot behind Russell.
In his quest to close the gap on the Red Bulls, Hamilton said he was praying for rain. Wet weather is forecast in Melbourne although not currently for Sunday’s race.
Looking ahead to the weekend, he said: “This weekend I’m just hoping for rain if I’m honest because that’ll make it a little more exciting from our point of view.
“But I’m just hoping the gap isn’t a second and we can hit the ground running with the set-up. But I arrive here feeling rejuvenated and the atmosphere in the team is positive.”
Russell, meanwhile, said the team would struggle to have aspirations for a podium with Red Bull once again expected to dominate and Aston Martin to be the next-quickest team on the grid.
“If we manage to get another P4 or fight for the podium that will probably be exceeding the potential of the car,” he said. “If we can fight with Aston and Ferrari again, that’d be a good weekend.”
Verstappen will once again go into the grand prix as favourite despite having struggled with illness and his breathing.
“It felt like I was missing a lung and I got to the weekend really believing that it was gone because normally when you get sick, like two, three days after, you’re normally alright,” he said. “You can do your workouts but, when I jumped into the car in FP1, even just one performance lap, I felt like I had to recover from two laps to be able to breathe normally.”