While Lewis Hamilton still hopes to challenge Red Bull in F1 2023, and certainly from the start of next season, he highlighted the “danger” of Red Bull getting a headstart thanks to their current dominance.
Red Bull continued their all-conquering start to F1 2023 as Max Verstappen took the chequered flag at the Spanish Grand Prix, making it three wins in a row for the reigning World Champion.
But while his victory margin over Mercedes’ Hamilton stood at 24 seconds, there were clear signs that Mercedes had taken a big step forward with the upgrade package which they first introduced in Monaco, having comfortably had the beating of Ferrari and Aston Martin.
Mercedes then it seems are back on the right path having ditched their unique zero-pod concept for a philosophy more closely related to that of the Red Bull RB19, and so the talk of the paddock after that race was whether Mercedes could now reel Red Bull in over the remainder of the season.
Hamilton still holds hope that this is possible, though he cannot ignore that Red Bull’s lack of competition so far could open the door for them to switch focus early to their 2024 challenger, and so the seven-time World Champion stressed the need for Mercedes to find the “right balance” between their efforts for this season and the 2024 challenger.
“I think today they were a good few tenths ahead of us,” Hamilton told reporters after the Spanish Grand Prix.
“Maybe half a second ahead of us per lap – and on a single lap, that’s a little bit bigger – but I think we’re going in the right direction and I know we have something in the pipeline moving forward so I’m hoping at least by the end of the year, it would be great if we could challenge them.
“But I would say for me, I’m more focused on making sure that we have the car next year to challenge them from day one. And the further we continue to push this car this year, the more that impacts next year also, in some ways, but the more we learn about this car also then sets us in the right direction, so it’s trying to find the right balance.
“They’re so far ahead and you know, ultimately, Max will continue to win this year. But that means that they can start on their development for next year sooner, earlier than everybody else, if they haven’t already, and that’s the danger.
“So we’ve just got to keep working hard, but also try and get the right balance.”
With George Russell following Hamilton across the line to ensure both Mercedes drivers were on the Spanish GP podium, the team has been able to boot Aston Martin out of the P2 spot in the Constructors’ Championship, with Mercedes now 18 points ahead of their customer team.