Lewis Hamilton has called on Ferrari to raise their game after Mercedes romped to a record fourth one-two finish in Azerbaijan on Sunday.
Valtteri Bottas took the chequered flag ahead of Hamilton to match his Mercedes team-mate with a second win of the season and regain the lead of this year’s championship by a single point.
Until Sunday, no team in Formula One history had enjoyed a perfect start to the season after four rounds of racing.
Sebastian Vettel finished third, never troubling the Mercedes cars, while his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc crossed the line in fifth – his afternoon compromised following a crash in qualifying.
Vettel has already been cast 35 points adrift in the drivers’ standings with his Ferrari team 74 points behind Mercedes in the race for the constructors’ title.
A combination of errors by both of Ferrari’s drivers, as well as a car which has failed to build on its pre-season promise, leaves the Italians in trouble and Hamilton in the box seat to win a sixth world crown.
This is the strongest start to a season for a team in F1 history. 4 back to back 1-2’s, wow. I couldn’t be prouder of this team, the sheer amount of hard work and vision I see each day from everyone here is mind blowing @MercedesAMGF1 📷 @MSI_Images pic.twitter.com/5CGMkI3bfN— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) April 28, 2019
And the 34-year-old British driver believes Mercedes’ dominance will extend into the European season – which kicks off in Spain a week on Sunday – unless Ferrari begin to improve.
“Until they start performing at the level we are at, then this is how it’s going to be,” said Hamilton.
“We definitely didn’t expect to have the performance we have but I’m glad we do. I just think the team is out-performing itself.
“They’re going to have to pick it up if they want to fight us.”
A dejected Vettel was in agreement with Hamilton – Ferrari’s optimism after two weeks of winter testing in Barcelona now a distant memory.
“He is right, we need to pick it up,” said Vettel, who is on a losing streak which has now extended beyond eight months – his last victory at August’s Belgian Grand Prix.
“We need stronger pace. It is as simple as that. We need to be faster.
“It’s like a Rubik’s cube where you have to have everything in the right order.
“We have a good car, but we’re not using it in the way to get the results we should be getting.”
Lewis Hamilton is relishing being back at work as Formula One’s reigning world champion prepares to defend his crown.
The Mercedes star is this year bidding to win his sixth title, and move to within only one of Michael Schumacher’s record haul.
Unlike in recent seasons, however, Hamilton has not arrived in Melbourne for the sport’s traditional curtain raiser as the favourite to win the championship.
Indeed, after an impressive eight days of winter testing in Barcelona, it is Hamilton’s Ferrari rival, Sebastian Vettel, who will seemingly start the campaign as the driver to beat.
Hamilton, who turned 34 at the beginning of the year, is gearing up for his 13th season in F1 and – following the retirement of Fernando Alonso – is now behind only Kimi Raikkonen in terms of grands prix appearances of the sport’s current crop.
Yet, the Englishman, who kept a low profile during the off-season, pointed to his extracurricular activities away from the race track, notably the recent launch of his second Tommy Hilfiger fashion range in Berlin, as a reason why he heads into the forthcoming campaign as motivated as ever.
“I have just come off my break and while I got to do a lot of things that I wanted to do, I have missed working,” he said.
“I am a workaholic. I love working with people and I feel as soon as I get back to work, I am living my purpose.
“Yes, there are things around the job that I could happily not do because I just want to go racing.
“I don’t struggle with the motivation for that. But, if I didn’t have the other things in my life, maybe that would be a different story.
“I am fortunate, however, that I have these other projects. I love going to fashion shows, and being involved in the collection with Tommy Hilfiger. It is awesome.”
Hamilton held the upper hand over Vettel last year and in 2017, winning back-to-back championships with two rounds to spare.
Mercedes, meanwhile, are chasing a record sixth driver and constructors’ championship double.
But on the eve of this weekend’s race, Hamilton’s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff warned: “Last year, we had to give it absolutely everything to come out on top, but from what we have learned so far, this year will be even tougher.
“It will push us to our limits – and that’s an exciting prospect for every single one of us. We’re ready for the fight.”
*Lewis Hamilton was speaking at the launch of the new range of PETRONAS Syntium with CoolTech at PETRONAS’ state-of-the-art Global Research & Technology Centre in Turin, Italy.
Lewis Hamilton‘s preparations for the Brazilian Grand Prix hit a minor bump after he suffered a mechanical issue in final practice.
The newly-crowned five-time world champion missed half of the one-hour session at the Interlagos circuit when puffs of white engine smoke emerged from his Mercedes during his opening lap.
Hamilton was sidelined for the best part of 30 minutes as his Mercedes crew discovered a breather pipe had dislodged from his engine.
The Englishman, 33, headed back to the track once the problem had been resolved by his mechanics, and posted a time good enough for second.
He trailed Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel by 0.217 seconds, while Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished third ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari.
Hamilton is back in action this weekend for the first time since winning his fifth championship in Mexico and emulating Juan Manuel Fangio’s title tally a fortnight ago.
Fangio’s nephew, Juan Manuel Fangio II, and the president of the Fangio Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Antonio Mandiola, are guests of Hamilton’s Mercedes team here for the penultimate round of the season.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who won in Mexico, and his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth respectively.