Lewis Hamilton has expressed disappointment over the upgrade to his Mercedes, saying the changes were “definitely not the step forward” they were hoping for ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix.
The 38-year-old finished 39 seconds behind Max Verstappen in Monaco as the Dutchman extended his championship lead over team-mate Sergio Perez to 39 points.
Verstappen now says his team, who have dominated the sport since an overhaul of the regulations at the beginning of last season, have the speed to win all 22 races.
Hamilton, meanwhile, has cautioned hopes that he could provide some much-needed competition. He had said after last month’s Miami Grand Prix he was “counting down the days” for the upgrade to propel him back to the front.
However, having been given his first taste of Mercedes’ revamped machine at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix, he said: “It is definitely not the step forward that we were hoping for. The true step forward we were hoping for was to [overturn] a one-second delta [to RedBull] in race trim, and we have not covered that with this step.”
The seven-time world champion qualified sixth in Monte Carlo before making up two places in the rain-hit race. Team-mate George Russell finished one spot behind in fifth, while Verstappen raced to his fourth win of the season.
Hamilton said: “When you bring upgrades, naturally you should be progressing forwards, and the fact is that it is an improvement, but not the improvement we dreamt of.”
The Monte Carlo layout has been among Mercedes’ worst tracks and Sunday’s race at the Circuit de Catalunya on the outskirts of Barcelona is set to represent a truer reflection of the team’s outright speed.
“It is one step at a time,” Hamilton said. “I don’t feel negative towards it, I am grateful we have it, and I understand how much work has gone into making these parts, the rush that has gone on, and the amount of flat-out work by the team. We are hugely hungry to move in the right direction so I would say that I am just hopeful it puts us on a better track.
“We have taken account of where we are, where we have gone wrong, and now we are slowly chipping away and navigating our way back to the front, but unfortunately it is just a long process.”
Red Bull have won 16 of the past 17 grands prix, with Verstappen firmly on course to secure his third world title in as many years. When asked whether the team would now win every race of the championship, he said: “I would say at the moment, that we can. But that’s very unlikely to happen.
“There are always things that go wrong, a retirement or whatever. But purely on pace at the moment we can. We have always seen dominant periods in Formula One and this is nothing new. If we look back at the Eighties, the Nineties, the 2000s, early 2010s to all the way until 2020, it’s pure dominance of certain teams.
“The longer you leave the regulations the same, the closer people will get. So maybe this is something we need to look at.”
Fernando Alonso presents the likeliest challenge to the Red Bull stranglehold this weekend in his home Grand Prix.
He said F1 was “very easy from the sofa” as he responded to claims that Aston Martin could have won in Monaco last weekend.
Alonso said that fitting intermediate tyres rather than slicks at a pit stop could “maybe” have given him the win, but he added: “What I don’t like in F1 is that we see always the negatives.
“We never put enough value on the right things the teams do in very stressful moments. We always spot one team that do wrong and then go hard on them.”