Lewis Hamilton has his sights firmly set on reeling in the dominant Red Bull team after his P2 finish in Spain, and is not ruling out it happening this season.
In many ways it was a familiar story as Max Verstappen drove his Red Bull RB19 to a comfortable victory, leading from start to finish and taking the bonus point for fastest lap, his final margin over Hamilton standing at 24 seconds.
That being said, while Red Bull made it seven wins from seven in F1 2023, it could not be ignored that the upgraded Mercedes W14 had a solid outing on its first experience of a traditional race track, with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya often regarded as a strong all-round test of Formula 1 machinery.
Hamilton and team-mate George Russell had the clear advantage over Aston Martin and Ferrari, which has certainly not been the norm so far this season, suggesting that the team are now on the right path with their philosophy change in a bid to return to the front.
And Hamilton very much intends on continuing to lead the charge to bring Red Bull under control.
“What a result for our team,” he said post-race. “We definitely didn’t expect to have the result we had today.
“So I just really wanted to take my hat off to my team, a big big thank you to everyone back in the factory for continuing to push and bring us a little bit closer to the Bulls.
“They’re still a bit ahead, but we will keep chasing them down. But this is an amazing result, George did a great job today as well.”
The question then is when can Mercedes hope to achieve that mission of eliminating Red Bull’s dominant advantage? Could it even come this year?
“I think they’re a bit too quick at the moment, but we’re working at it,” Hamilton stated.
“So just one step at a time and if we can get close by the end of the year, that’d be awesome. But if not, next year.”
For Russell this was his first podium finish of the F1 2023 campaign, his fantastic recovery drive from P12 to P3 coming as something as a surprise.
“A little bit surprised for sure,” he said. “Kudos to the team for giving me a really great car today.
“I mean that was a fun race for us starting from P12, coming all the way to P3. A sign of things to come hopefully for us and the team.”
And on that subject, Russell was asked whether this W14 in its new form felt at its best yet out there on the Barcelona track?
And Russell did confirm that the feeling has improved, and the pace reflected that.
“Yeah it definitely feels better, but you’re just putting in those lap times and you’re comparing with the guys around you, with the Astons and the Ferraris and we were just quicker and quicker and quicker,” said Russell.
“So we know we brought some more downforce to the car, we know things were in a better window, so really pleased to be on the podium.”
That result for Mercedes sees them move up to P2 in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of Aston Martin, now boasting an advantage of 18 points.