Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes has yet to fully understand how to get the most out of its new W08 Silver Arrows following pre-season testing which never led to “the perfect day”.
Hamilton clocked in fourth fastest overall at the end of the double-week test, with a lap which was about six-tenths slower that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, the man at the top of the timesheet.
“Do we have more potential? I mean time will tell,” Hamilton said.
“We’ve been focusing on trying to understand this car and getting the most out of it and as I’ve said, there’s never generally been the perfect day, but there’s more potential in the car for it to grow.”
While Hamilton was happy with what Mercedes and himself accomplished in Spain, as the team validated the design of its W08 and confirmed its reliability, the Brit certainly did not squeeze all the car’s juice out of it.
“I didn’t feel like I got everything out of it [the car], so I could go faster, but of course there are all sorts of things that can bring the time down [such as fuel load].”
“We did everything we needed to do and learned a lot, which is always a positive as some days you don’t learn a lot.
“You chase your tail sometimes. But we learned a lot. I feel confident we’ve got everything we need from this test.”
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Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen set the best time of anyone at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. His team mate Sebastian Vettel was almost a match for Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in terms of mileage and reliability.
Of of which means that Hamilton is starting to wonder whether this year’s world championship might not be the walk in the park for him that it once seemed.
“They have been doing a fantastic job and I think there’s more to come from them,” Hamilton said when asked by Motorsport.com for his thoughts on Ferrari’s performance. “Their pace this week has been spectacular.
“Red Bull are still there,” he added. “I don’t know if they brought their upgrade package here this week but usually they bring it for the first race. I expect us to be having a real serious battle with both these teams.”
At times it appeared that the Ferrari could have gone even quicker. Vettel backed off on his flying laps on Thursday and later denied that his team were favourites in 2017.
“I don’t know if there are mind games going on,” Hamilton said. “Sometimes there have been potentially some teams sandbagging in the past, but I don’t really see that as being a benefit to any team.
“Every year in testing the goal is not necessarily to go as quick as you can. It’s to find out what you have in the car.”
Certainly as far as Hamilton was concerned, Mercedes weren’t hiding anything in pre-season testing.
“The time you saw was the time we could do. I didn’t feel when I got out that I could have gone faster.
“But of course there are all sort of things that come into play to bring the time down, such as fuel loads, engine modes, those kind of things. The great thing is no one really knows.
“It looks very positive for Ferrari, that’s for sure, and I don’t think that’s a bluff.”