Lewis Hamilton says his victory in Azerabaijan has not provided him with renewed hope that he can beat Sebastian Vettel to this year’s Formula One world championship.
Hamilton will contest the opening leg of the European season in Barcelona a week on Sunday with a four-point lead over Vettel after ending his six-race losing streak on Sunday.
The 33-year-old British driver did so, however, in the most fortunate of circumstances as he took advantage of a number of incidents during another chaotic chapter of this unpredictable and fascinating season.
Ferrari, in Vettel’s hands, remain the team to beat with Hamilton struggling to get on top of this year’s Mercedes. Vettel should have departed Baku at least 12 points clear of his rival, but will head to Spain trailing.
Indeed the German may have had an even healthier cusion had Max Verstappen not wiped him out of the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai
earlier this month.
And Hamilton has warned that both he and Mercedes must raise their game, and not rely on the lottery of another barmy race, for him to stand any chance of winning a fifth world crown.
“I currently don’t feel that way,” said Hamilton when asked if his victory on the streets of Baku had provided him with hope that he will triumph come the end of this marathon 21-race season.
“Being in the lead of the championship is great, but if we continue on the trajectory we are on, then we would need tricky races like this one in Azerbaijan to keep us in the fight.
“There have been two weird races in China and Azerbaijan, which have kept us in the mix, but we cannot rely on such scenarios for the next 17 grands prix.
“We need ultimate performance and confidence in the car, and while I have got the pace within me, and I think the car has got the pace, too, both are currently not intertwined in synergy to extract the perfect equation. We definitely have to improve in a lot of areas.”
Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, often provides the acid test of a driver’s championship chances, with the quickest car in Spain traditionally providing that season’s title winner.
Hamilton beat Vettel in Barcelona last year, and will be desperate to do so again.
The Brit also revealed he will speak to race director Charlie Whiting about Vettel’s conduct under the safety car.
Hamilton avoided a near-miss with the German during Sunday’s race, and accused his rival of adopting illegal tactics.
“The rules dictate that you are not allowed to start and stop and start and stop under the safety car,” Hamilton added. “I have abided by that, but Sebastian accelerated and then braked and I nearly went up the back end of him. He did it maybe four times, so I need to speak to Charlie.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner meanwhile, is set to allow Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo to continue to race despite their embarrassing collision in Baku.
The duo are this week due at Red Bull’s Milton Keynes factory to apologise in person to the team’s 800 staff.
“We will discuss it prior to Barcelona, but we want to continue to allow the drivers to race,” Horner said. “But they have to ensure that if they
are going wheel to wheel, they’re going to allow each other enough space.”