Lewis Hamilton says it is “no secret” F1’s new aerodynamic rules are designed to stop Mercedes, but that’s fine, he likes being the “hunter”.
Mercedes had a difficult pre-season, the Brackley squad finishing testing more than a second behind Red Bull.
But while there were signs of a fight-back on the medium tyres in Q2, the only session that Hamilton was quickest at the Bahrain GP weekend, when the teams were back on the soft tyres for Q3 it was all Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman took pole position with a 1:28.997, a massive 0.388s faster than Hamilton.
The seven-time World Champion says he doesn’t mind starting second as it means he gets the chance to be the “hunter” for a change.
“They clearly still have a good chunk of time on us,” he said ahead of Sunday’s 57-lap race. “But we can still fight from second place.
“I like being the hunter.”
The Brit, though, does feel Formula 1 has deliberately taken steps to halt Mercedes’ charge this season.
New aerodynamic rules governing the floor and diffuser, designed to reduce downforce and slow the cars, have had more of an impact on the teams that run low rakes, such as Mercedes and Aston Martin.
“I mean, it’s no secret that the changes, of course they have been done to peg us back,” he said.
“We had the changes, of course, last year to our engine to do the same thing.
“But that’s okay. We love a challenge and we don’t look down on these things. We just work hard to do the best we can, and that’s what we will do.”
Hamilton reckons Red Bull will continue to have an advantage in Sunday’s race.
“That’s just from the information that I’ve been given and from what I can see,” he said.
“Our balance wasn’t really that spectacular, but it wasn’t the worst, driving. It was just if you work things out, it looked like it was a couple of tenths difference between us.
“But we’ll see. It definitely didn’t look terrible and it was a lot better than what I thought was going to be in testing.”