Hamilton: Red Bull hold the advantage

Date published: April 15 2011

Lewis Hamilton has warned Sebastian Vettel will again be the man to beat in China this weekend…

Lewis Hamilton has warned Sebastian Vettel will again be the man to beat in China this weekend despite backing his McLaren to fare better than it did in the heat of Malaysia.

Hamilton ran Championship leader Vettel close in qualifying in Sepang last weekend, and but for getting boxed in behind the fast-starting Renault of Nick Heidfeld during the first stint, might have challenged for victory.

As it was, Hamilton compromised his strategy in his bid to retake the position from Heidfeld, and excessive tyre wear in the tortuous heat ultimately proved his downfall as he dropped away to an eventual eighth-placed finish.

But with the heat and humidity in Shanghai expected to be far below the levels experienced in Malaysia, Hamilton is optimistic he will provide a more consistent challenge to Vettel this weekend.

“The temperatures are better here so the car will, I’m sure, be better than it was last weekend,” said Hamilton. “Whether or not we’ll be as close as we were in the last race, we’ll find out.

“Our race pace generally appears to be quite similar to theirs, it’s just generally in qualifying they seem to have an advantage.”

That advantage in qualifying last weekend equated to just one tenth of a second between pole man Vettel and Hamilton, while the Briton has got the better of Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber in both qualifying sessions so far this term.

Add into the mix the fact that Red Bull have been experiencing problems with their KERS turbo-boost system, and there are reasons for optimism at McLaren.

Yet Hamilton has warned Red Bull will have learned from their KERS dramas in Sepang.

“It was close there, but I’m sure that they’ll be back on top form and have even more pace than they did in the last race,” he added.

McLaren tried to implement new floor and exhaust upgrades last time out, and while Hamilton admitted that they did not provide the breakthrough they had hoped for, they will persevere with them again in free practice tomorrow.

“The upgrades that came to the last race didn’t particularly work, so [this weekend is] an attempt to get them to work,” he added.

“There’s a decent amount of potential in them.”

Vettel, meanwhile, who leads the Championship on a perfect 50 points – 24 clear of nearest challenger Jenson Button – has moved to check expectations ahead of Sunday’s race.

“We come here and we start again, that’s the name of the game at every race,” he said.

“We will try to keep it going, but we saw in the last race that it’s getting very tight and you can take nothing for granted.”