Lewis Hamilton suspects Mercedes are going to find it “hard to beat” rejuvenated Ferrari in F1’s upcoming races – but has backed the world champions to rise to the renewed challenge.
Against all pre-weekend expectations in Singapore, on a track that demands high downforce – a perceived 2019 Ferrari weakness – the Scuderia finished first and second in Sunday’s race to extend their winning run to three races – their best sequence for 11 years.
As a result, Mercedes have now suffered three consecutive race-day defeats for just the second time in the last six seasons.
And with Ferrari now seemingly having found a breakthrough with their car on tracks which do not simply require horsepower – the SF90’s established strength – Hamilton is expecting a more consistent fight.
“I’m a realist so I see the situation we’re in and they’ve just come up with some sort of upgrade that’s perhaps put their car… maybe they’ve had a good car all year and it just wasn’t working in the right window,” said Hamilton on Sunday night.
“Who knows, because it’s unlikely they’ve brought a massive, massive upgrade that’s brought 20-30 points [of downforce] to something which performance-wise is probably what you’d expect they’ve taken here.
“But clearly their car works really well everywhere now so it’s going to be very hard to beat them, particularly as they are so quick on the straights. We can’t compete with them on the straights at the moment.”
Mercedes must ‘pull our socks up’
Despite Ferrari’s winning run, Hamilton and Mercedes’ consistent winning form before the August summer break means they remain firmly on course to defend their world titles.
Hamilton actually extended his title lead over team-mate Valtteri Bottas to 65 points, while Leclerc, Ferrari’s lead runner, is 96 points adrift with 156 points to play for over the final six races.
“We have won before with not the best car but it’s really how we deliver over the weekend.
“At the moment they are delivering better in the operations area. Today I did enough in the race in the first stint to come out and lead but the whole processes didn’t work as well as it should do. So we’ve just got to re-huddle, get back together, work hard and move forwards.”
The world champion added: “Of course it’s got tighter and tighter as the season has gone on, we work on that, but at the same time we’ve just got to be doing a better job.
“We were doing such a great job at the beginning of the year and we have this gap, but the gap can easily go. I’m under no illusions, my gap in the championship – it’s not won yet.