Hamilton: Ferrari ‘quite a bit ahead’ of Mercedes

Mark Scott
Lewis Hamilton is "grateful" to be starting the Azerbaijan GP in P2 after a poor final lap in Q3.

Lewis Hamilton is "grateful" to be starting the Azerbaijan GP in P2 after a poor final lap in Q3.

There was a familiar tone to Lewis Hamilton’s post-practice assessment in Baku as he played down Mercedes chances against Ferrari.

Mercedes have recorded three consecutive 1-2 finishes so far in 2019 with Hamilton himself winning two of those races in  Bahrain and China.

But the five-time World Champion was nearly seven tenths off the pace set by Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc after FP2, a gap which he feels will not be completely eradicated within the space of 24 hours.

“It’s been a bit of an odd day, but I still enjoyed it,” Hamilton told reporters in Baku.

“FP2 went really well, I was feeling good out there and I was more comfortable in the car than I was last year.

“However, the Ferraris are clearly very quick and it looks like they’re quite a bit ahead of us, so we’ll need to investigate to see where we are losing time compared to them.

“It’s unlikely that we will find seven tenths over night, but we’ll do everything we can to push the car in the right direction.

“Our long run pace looked a little bit stronger than our short run pace, so we’ll need to try and find out why.

“It should be a good fight tomorrow; I’m always down for a fight and I think that’s what the fans want to see, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

Valtteri Bottas,  meanwhile, lodged in P5 behind Max Verstappen following FP2, agreed with Hamilton that Ferrari do seem to have the early edge in Baku.

“I’m not really pleased with the laps I did, but it’s always a bit tricky to find the rhythm in Baku and it takes a bit of time,” Bottas added.

“It wasn’t easy to get the Medium compound up to the right temperatures today, but corner speeds will increase due to track evolution, so we should be able to get a bit more energy into the tyres tomorrow.

“Our long runs felt good and the pace didn’t look too bad either, but we are a bit behind on single lap pace. Ferrari looked really strong, particularly on the short runs, so it will be a tough fight tomorrow.”

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