Lewis Hamilton makes it clear just how far Mercedes are behind Red Bull

Michelle Foster
Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes garage. F1 Saudi Arabia March 2023.

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in the garage ahead of qualifying. Jeddah March 2023.

Lewis Hamilton is not hiding from the mammoth task that faces Mercedes, the Briton conceding it will “certainly” take them the rest of the year to close the gap on Red Bull.

And that is just to close it with the Mercedes driver acknowledging Red Bull also will not be standing still.

This season Mercedes and their fellow Red Bull rivals have been swallowed up by the Milton Keynes squad, the RB19 as much as a second per lap faster in race trim at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

The reigning World Champion’s margin was slightly reduced in Saudi Arabia while Australia, where Hamilton finished second, did not give an accurate picture of the performance in light of two red flag stoppages.

Hamilton, though, did say at the time that he was staggered by Max Verstappen’s straight-line speed as the Dutchman blasted past him to take the lead of the Grand Prix.

“It’s just insane,” said the seven-time World Champion. “They’re just in another league and until we pick up speed on the straight like they have, and have the crazy downforce that they have through the corners, that’s how it’s going to continue.”

Mercedes principal Toto Wolff has since revealed the team is working hard and “fast” to bring updates to the car that will hopefully see them close the gap.

“We have defined a clear direction where we need to go,” he told the team’s website, “and I believe we are on the right trajectory.”

Hamilton, however, fears it could take the entire season for Mercedes to close the gap such is the advantage of the RB19.

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“We have to make sure to implement changes,” he said as per Motorsport-Total.com.

“I just hope this task doesn’t prove too big. It will certainly take the rest of the year to possibly close the gap.

“It can take a long time to catch another car. I’m aware of that. And the Red Bull is very likely to be developed further.”

The 38-year-old hopes that Red Bull, ahead of the curve, at least have less scope to improve their RB19, which could then helps Mercedes.

But, he admits, there’s no guarantee in that.

“Some cars reach a performance plateau at some point [in development],” he said. “When you get to a certain point, you just can’t go any further.

“It might be different at Red Bull. It’s a great team, so I’m sure they’ll continue to add downforce to the car.”

He added: “I hope that we will find something and that we are not far away from the others. We can develop a car quickly. We’ve proven that in the past. Hopefully that’s the case here again when the vehicle’s potential opens up.”

Mercedes are third in the Constructors’ Championship with 56 points, less than half of Red Bull’s 123.