Mercedes left Australia with a much better result than expected, but Hamilton says hard work must be done now to keep alive his dwindling F1 title hopes
Lewis Hamilton is demanding immediate improvements from his Mercedes team despite an “amazing result” at the Melbourne Grand Prix.
Remarkably, Hamilton heads to Imola for the fourth round of the Formula One championship with his team lying second in the constructors’ table. Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell is second in the drivers’ standings after finishing a spot ahead of the seven-times world champion in third place. After their well-documented troubles, it is a position Mercedes were clearly delighted with as they left Australia and headed back to Europe.
But Hamilton warned that they must make serious progress ahead of Imola to try and close the speed difference between Mercedes and the Red Bull and Ferrari cars. He said: “There is performance to be gained in areas we know and we need it now – not in two or three races, as we all know as a team. I will be in the simulator – we’ve got some improvements we need to make and we need everyone’s support in doing so. We need to make sure we leave no stone unturned.”
Charles Leclerc comfortably won his second race of the year, meaning the Ferrari driver is already 43 points ahead of Hamilton in the drivers’ championship. And while trying to be upbeat, Hamilton could not help but admit he already has a mountain to climb if he wants to clinch a record-breaking eighth title.
He said: “I prefer to stay optimistic – there are 20 races to go. Realistically, with the way the sport goes, the top teams often develop at a similar rate but will that be the case with these new cars? Who knows? But I am really hoping we can get into the fight.
“But with every improvement we make, the Ferrari and then Red Bull will probably make a similar step. It is not going to be easy and the gap is pretty big right now but there is a long way to go.”
The Mercedes cars of Hamilton and Russell were not expected to be near the podium finishes in Melbourne but were helped by an early prang from Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and by another mechanical failure for world champion Max Verstappen, who ground to a halt with 19 laps to go.
“We didn’t even finish the race so it is pretty frustrating and unacceptable,” snapped the Dutchman. “If you want to fight for the title, these things cannot happen. We are already miles behind. I don’t even want to think about the championship fight at the moment.”
In contrast to Hamilton, Russell was delighted with his third-placed finish, saying: “You’ve got to be in it to win it and capitalise from others misfortune. We got a bit lucky, probably twice but we take it. To be standing on the podium is special.”
Mario Renzi – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Image)
And Hamilton added: “It’s an amazing result for us as a team. Whilst we haven’t necessarily improved the car over these (opening) three races, I think we have extracted the most we could points-wise – although I let the team down in the last race when I didn’t get the points.”
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez finished second and there was encouragement for another British driver, Lando Norris, who came home in fifth place in his McLaren.