Lewis Hamilton asserted on Thursday that Mercedes has fallen so far behind at the start of the Formula One season that the seven-time champion would need three rival teams to suffer debacles to have a chance of winning.
Red Bull dominated the first race of the year two weeks ago in Bahrain, with two-time champion Max Verstappen and Mexican Sergio Pérez 1-2. Fernando Alonso appeared with third place with Aston Martin and Caros Sainz Jr. was fourth with Ferrari.
Hamilton finished fifth, 51 seconds behind Verstappen. And his teammate George Russell was seventh, 56 seconds off the lead. But they would have had a worse result if the engine in Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari hadn’t failed near the end of the race.
“We are not fighting (for the title). We need Red Bull to not finish the race and the Ferraris not to finish and maybe the Astons not to finish either so that we can win at that point,” Hamilton admitted before the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.
Hamilton is tied with Michael Schumacher for the record seven F1 titles and is the driver with the most wins, with 103, in addition to 103 pole positions. He will not improve any runs last season for the first time in his career, which he started in 2007.
His regret is because he believes that Red Bull did not even give it its best in Bahrain.
“I think in that race they didn’t even push and I think they may be faster than they seemed. They are a second and a half faster per lap in the race,” Hamilton said. “But I trust everyone 100%. It’s not that he suddenly lost the ability to build great cars, it’s just that we’re nowhere near where we need to be and where we want to be.”
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Hamilton criticized Mercedes after the opening race, telling a BBC podcast that Mercedes had not paid attention to him in developing the car for this year.
“In retrospect I think I didn’t choose the best words,” said the 38-year-old British driver.
Mercedes principal director Toto Wolff acknowledged in Bahrain that Mercedes made mistakes in the development of the car after Russell won just one race last year.
Hamilton added that he is determined to negotiate a new contract and continues to believe he can win again.
“I’ve been here a long time and I have no intention of going anywhere else,” he said. “I will win again. It’s just going to take a while.”