Baku – Lewis Hamilton has warned Ferrari to shape up and mount a serious title challenge after his Mercedes team swept the first four races of the season.
The defending five-time world champion, who finished second behind his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, said the Italian team need to fight back hard to stay in contention to avert a similar Mercedes procession in next month’s Spanish Grand Prix.
“Until they start to perform at the level we are now, then this is how it’s going to be,” said Hamilton, who slipped a point behind championship leader Bottas on Sunday when Mercedes collected a record season-opening fourth straight one-two.
“We definitely didn’t expect to have this level of performance, but I am glad we do … I think the team is out-performing itself. They’re going to have to pick it up if they want to fight us.”
Ferrari’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel finished third and his team-mate Charles Leclerc fifth.
“He is right,” said Vettel, who has not tasted victory since last year’s Belgian Grand Prix. “We need to pick it up. We need stronger pace. It is as simple as that.
“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 to get the results we should be getting.”
Ferrari’s optimism after dominating pre-season testing in Spain seems a distant memory after Sunday’s race and they badly need to rediscover their mojo in Catalonia.
Hamilton said he also wants a new display unit in his cockpit after losing time in a Virtual Safety Car (VSC) period, falling from two seconds behind Bottas to 3.6 seconds.
“It’s all fine margins,” said Hamilton. “Valtteri did a better job in qualifying, which put him in pole position. Then, at the start, another fine margin for him, which I will have to work on…”
“There’s some things to fix on the dash to make sure it doesn’t happen again – just technical stuff, nothing major… But again it’s all part of the fine margins that make the difference.”