Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2019

Hamilton: Too early to call Bottas my main title rival

RaceFans Round-up

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In the round-up: Lewis Hamilton says he doesn’t think the drivers’ championship will be a Mercedes-only fight, despite the team’s scoring its fourth consecutive one-two yesterday.

What they say

Hamilton was asked if he sees Bottas as his main title rival:

No, it’s far too early to say one person is the title rival.

The Ferraris, as I said, this weekend they had the pace in practice and in qualifying. I think if both cars delivered as we delivered I think we would have been a lot closer. We’ll still have to stay on our toes.

We didn’t bring an upgrade this weekend and Ferrari did. So it’s a little bit of a surprise, performance-wise, because at some stage we will bring an upgrade.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Comment of the day

Should F1 haver IndyCar/NASCAR-style ‘restart zones’?

I still believe F1 should introduce a restart zone like other series. Get the cars in line at a constant speed, and the leader can’t restart until said zone. Once he has restarted, green flag

Simple, effective and exciting.
Diego (@Ofitus21)

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On this day in F1

  • 35 years ago Ferrari’s Michele Alboreto won the last Belgian Grand Prix which wasn’t held at Spa. He led Derek Warwick (Renault) and Rene Arnoux (Ferrari) home at Zolder.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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57 comments on “Hamilton: Too early to call Bottas my main title rival”

  1. Not your main rival? Come on man, he is your ONLY RIVAL!

    Merc’s constant talking up of Ferrari is bordering on disrespectful now. By which I mean disrespectful to us the fans. Why do they need to do this? What are they getting out of towing this line? They are the best team, they have the fastest car, and the best driver…what more do you need? 4 1-2s on the trot, Ive never seen that in my time as an F1 fan (22 years now).

    Perhaps Ferrari are under performing slightly, but you don’t find 7 tenths “just like that”. The sad thing is, it seems that Ferrari have “sorta” bought into the idea that they’re actually quicker. The faster they realize this is not the case the better. At this rate, Red Bull will catch them soonish.

    1. @jaymenon10 borderline disrespectful for sure. Well said.

    2. @jaymenon10 – good comment, sums up the feelings of many fans, I’m sure.

    3. Ferrari should focus more on beating Red Bull[Verstappen] because if they focus on Mercedes, they’re just going to make more blunders trying to keep up and Max will be picking up the pieces and eventually beating them. I know it sounds like a “losers” mentality, but this season is now becoming like 2016 where Ferrari aren’t in Mercedes’ league.

    4. @jaymenon10 I couldn’t agree more. I share the same sentiments.

    5. Totally disagree.
      You can feel offended as much as you like, but it is only in your head, no one at Mercedes tries to mess up with it or make you believe things which are not true.

    6. Merc’s constant talking up of Ferrari is bordering on disrespectful now. By which I mean disrespectful to us the fans.

      How is it being disrespectful to the fans? We’re all big boys and girls here – surely we all know by know to take practise/Q1/Q2 times and what Mercedes say as pinches of salt by now (although it seems there’s already plenty of salt here). I know we’re living in this social media age where people actively find excuses to be offended in any way, but if people feel disrespected by this then I dread to think what other things in life disrespect people.

      Why do they need to do this?

      It’s called modesty. It keeps you grounded and disciplined, not taking anything for granted and not risking eating their words (remember Hamilton’s “wipe the smile off your face” comment in Australia 2018, anyone?). I mean, is he honestly going to say that it’s just his and Valtteri’s title for the taking with 17 rounds remaining? At this current stage yes, it already looks like Mercedes are running away with this year’s championships, but do we need to seek validation from Mercedes about what we believe? Indeed, all this Mercedes rhetoric could be interpreted as mind games, Lewis in particular is known for this, but F1 has always heavily been about mind games, on track and off. If you’ve followed the sport for 22 years, surely you’ll know it’s nothing new.

      I understand if people are frustrated by seeing yet another Mercedes 1-2. Is it good for the sport? Why aren’t the other teams putting up more of a challenge? What can be done to bridge the gap? All valid questions that open up to constructive discussion. But this just comes across as pure throwing the toys out of the pram.

        1. @jcost Haha! It’s Monday morning, my excuse :’D

      1. @ninjenius not modesty, it is false modesty. You can be modest if you are good but unsure before a result. After it, as is this case, when clearly they out-performed everyone to keep that same narrative, selling an idea that they went beyond their capabilities to achieve that result is just annoying really (doesn’t offend me, but it does annoy me). And they aren’t even that good at it really.

        Just look at what Hamilton said

        The Ferraris, as I said, this weekend they had the pace in practice and in qualifying. I think if both cars delivered as we delivered I think we would have been a lot closer. We’ll still have to stay on our toes.

        We didn’t bring an upgrade this weekend and Ferrari did. So it’s a little bit of a surprise, performance-wise, because at some stage we will bring an upgrade.

        The Ferraries weren’t on pace in qualifying, a Merc front row lock up will tell you as much. In practice doesn’t really matter, especially when Mercedes told us that they run their engines in lower power settings. To top it off he even tells us that they were faster despite not having any upgrade, an in the future we should expect even more performance when they bring one.

        You can be humble in victory and defeat, and there is nothing wrong in saying after a result that they were the better ones, the faster ones, because it is so clear that even if they are telling themselves that they weren’t surely everyone at the team can see it, and just defeats the purpose.

        Keep their feet on the ground? Yes, of course but are better ways to do it than stating against what has been clearly obvious

        1. Well…if Lewis and Merc are doing this just to wind you up… long may it continue.
          I mean that’s some arrogance. To pressume all at Mercedes just want to pull the wool over your eyes.
          How anyone can question how Merc go about their business is beyond me.

          1. How is you brother Sam doing? You didn’t told me the other day

      2. Well said. These people seem to think Mercedes have technicians in the Ferrari garage gathering data. The salt is ridiculous, ‘disrespectful’ i’ll tell you what;’s disrespectful is not letting your drivers race!

      3. It is disingenuous but it does serve its purpose. Toto knows full well they have ferrari in the bag but he also needs to make sure mercedes as a team keeps working hard to keep that advantage. F1 is all about hard work getting to the top and then it is hard work staying there. For viewers toto’s statements are disingenuous because it is such an obvious lie but toto is not just talking to viewers in his interviews. He talks also to the mercedes factory workers and engineers and he needs to project the image of tight championship battle to keep everybody pushing. He is also taking to the merc shareholders making sure the money keeps coming.

        In the end it is your own fault if you are gullible enough to believe what he says. F1 is full of statements that are either blatant lies, misdirection or half truths. Sometimes these are said with absolute conviction (see senna’s “be a racing driver and go for a gap speech” or piquet’s and renault’s statements after the crashgate but before the truth came out) while other times they are hidden under layers of ronspeak or simply swept away. F1 is political game and some of that game happens through the press. Toto would be a fool to not use that tool to its full effect. Fool is only the person who believes it.

    7. @jaymenon10 I could suggest that part of the reason is in order to please Liberty Media by making look like there is still some genuine competition that they are afraid of? Keep people interested etc.

      They have sponsors to please like everyone else and if the viewing/attendance figures start to drop this early in the season it is very bad news for all concerned.

      Just an idea.

    8. You thinking something doesn’t make it true. We’ve had four races, and so far Mercedes look llike they might run away with it, that they will do if things don’t improve for Ferrari. But it’s still a long way to go, and we can’t yet even be completely sure Mercedes have been as dominant so far as it appears, let alone that Ferrari won’t catch up.

      My view is that actually Merc have been a bit flattered by the results so far. They have a moderate pace advantage, and they’ve made the most of it in the first four races. Or, to put it another way, everything has gone about as well as it could for Merc so far, and so they’re bound to find it a bit harder going forward just by having normal luck.

    9. I for one am so very impressed by how ruthless and a perfectly oiled machinery mercedes has proved to be since Australia. Be it strategy wise, in the pits, at the factory or at the wheel. I mean they are not winning by a minute or so nor qualifying by a second or two like some other dominant cars could… But it seems like they are not leaving anything to others. I applaud them for that.

      1. It’s hard to make it look easy, that’s the crux of my previous comment

        1. I agree that it is too early to tell, as in, one never knows, and the majority of the season is yet to come. That said, after Australia the talk was that is always a unique race and we’ll know more in three or four races. Well now we know more, and one of the things we now know from TW is that they don’t push very hard in practice sessions. In other words LH is being disingenuous when he says Ferrari had the pace in practice, for that was only because they (Mercedes) let them. As to Ferrari having the pace in quali? Uh, no they didn’t, obviously. When TW said that of their practice of not pushing in practice, and then I saw Ferrari looking so strong, my own thought was so it’ll be a Mercedes one-two then, lol. I thought Ibwas making a joke to myself.

          I think VB will be LH’s main title rival as it stands today, and I just hope that if that continues to be the case, there does indeed end up being a rivalry and less friendliness. The gloves will surely have to come off if it is going to be the usual Mercedes 1-2’s ala LH/NR.

    10. @jaymenon10 In 22 years of watching F1 you must have missed a lot of Mercedes consecutive 1-2 finishes. The only thing new is 4 consecutive 1-2s in the first 4 races. Here were the other times (not the first 4 races)
      5 consecutive 1-2s
      Malaysia – Monaco 2014
      USA 2015 – Australia 2016
      4 consecutive 1-2s
      Japan – Brazil 2014
      USA – Abu Dhabi 2016

  2. Panagiotis Papatheodorou (@panagiotism-papatheodorou)
    29th April 2019, 1:45

    Hamilton has already won the title, unless Ferrari improve their car vastly.

    1. @panagiotism-papatheodorou – hey! Gotta keep an eye on that Williams as well, or they’ll sneak past Merc and Ferrari! ;)

      1. You are foorgetting rhe challenge from Stroll and Gasly.

        1. True, true :)

  3. COTD.

    The restart zones only really work on ovals which is what they were primarily introduced for. On the road/street circuits they tend to not work quite as well which is why Indycar actually gives the leader more freedom to ignore them & why the pure road racing categories don’t use them at all.

    1. That said DTM introduced restart zones last year (not sure if they’ll use them this year too)

      If you think about it, all tracks have room to do it. What I had in mind is drivers driving at pit lane speed when they cross the SC line, and have the restart zone where the finish line is (say the restart zone starts 50 metres before the finish line and goes all the way to the line). At those speeds all cars will be on the straight, and the leader has 2-3 seconds to restart the race.

      Plus the biggest issue with other series is having double file restarts, but I propose single file instead so there aren’t issues lining up

  4. Considering that Bottas is in the lead, maybe they should ask him if he considers Hamilton his main Championship rival?😜

    1. Sounds right to me :)

    2. Thought I remembered this comment. . .

  5. Mercedes is more or less 2 tenths faster than ferrari depending on the race.

    1. You mean Vettel’s Ferrari…

  6. I think one of the reasons Mercedes keep talking up Ferrari is that they are legitimatelly expecting the Prancing Horses to actually start showing that pace that they displayed in testing and in occasional practice sessions. Pace that for whatever reasons just has not materilized when it counts.

    Could it be that Ferrari had set up the car a specific way in testing in order to put in fast times purely for the headlines? If so, the next race will be interesting. If the Ferrari displays it’s testing pace there, then perhaps somehow Ferrari fouled up somewhere and have developed a car that can only convincingly beat the Mercs at a limited number of tracks.

    Either that or there’s something very wrong with the car. Worth noting, the one race where Ferrari nailed the front row -Bahrain- Lclerc’s car suffered an issue whilst rnning well ahead. Would have been interesting to see if similar might have happened to Vettel had he not spun, destroyed his front wing and subsequently removed himself from the equation.

    Did Ferrari dial the engine up after Austrailia, then have had to dial it back post Bahrain?

    I’ve also seen an article -can’t find a link at the mo- that suggests Ferrari’s front wing concept actually leavers them less room for development of it compared to the design Merceds adopted. Not sure how accurate it was, but that could be another factor to watch through the season.

    1. @nikkit – I think this is the article you’re talking about https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/formula1/47527705

      1. @nikkit @rich – nice article, thank you. Written by “The Secret Aerodynamicist” :)

  7. The biggest disappointment (yes, technically, it’s Williams, but that was fully expectable before the season had even started, and perhaps even before pre-season testing) thus far has been Renault. Given the size of the team and the works-status, etc., I was expecting them to be quite comfortably at the front of the midfield behind the top-three of Mercedes/Ferrari/RBR, but yet they’ve struggled at that to the same extent as last season or perhaps even to a slightly greater extent. They really need to get their act together if they are to repeat last season’s final WCC-position of 4th. Both Mclaren and RP capitalized on the lack of pace and 0-points score of them, as well as, Haas’ to a pretty decent extent in the last race.

    1. @jerejj

      I think Renault’s issues seem to be the car/chassis more than anything and whetever they do with their engine that Mclaren don’t do. Mclaren show good pace and the reiability hasn’t been badfor them at all, where as the Renaults have already clocked up quite a few DNF’s -Ricciardo’s yesterday was down to damage though, as was his Austrailia DNF.

      But yeah, Renault should be doing a lot better than they have been. Poor reliability, well of the pace, iffy handling etc

      And Williams? Let’s not even go there…sigh

    2. @jerejj I’m with you on this.

      I had really expected Renault to at least be on Red Bulls heels if not battling with them this season.
      The signing of Ricciardo signaled to me that they wanted one of the top drivers and that therefore they expected to be a serious contender in the near future.
      Instead they seem to have taken a massive step backwards.

    3. Completely agree and I am gutted really for Ric….Wanted Renault to show some serious progress this year but they have clearly been going backwards. I know for all the teams the new tires reduced sweetspot seem to be a major factor here but still – they are all having that issue so Renault can’t hide behind it. If they aren’t best of the rest come Barcelona then Mclaren will run away with this. I am as surprised by Mclarens pace/performance as I am disappointed by Renault. Its like Mclaren has become the new RB. Customer teams should never be beating the works team. Never. Ever.

      1. Renault are really underperforming so far this year and it’s quite a disappointment. I was hoping to see Daniel race in a reasonably competitive car.

        Not much to cheer so far especially when you consider the budget they must have.

    4. @jerejj
      Given the size of the team and the works-status, etc., I was expecting them to be quite comfortably at the front of the midfield behind the top-three of Mercedes/Ferrari/RBR – They’re a works team alright, but according to this site budget-wise they’re midfield. They don’t even have half of the budget of MER and FER and about 60% of RB. They’re only 5th, in the middle of McL on one side and TR/WIL on the other.

  8. 4 races in, and Mercedes already have the same number of 1-2 finishes as the entirety of the 2018 season.

  9. The artice headline is not Hamitons saying, its Dieter Rencken. Read the article and not just the headline.

    No wonder that we have so much fakenews when so many dont read the content just the label.

    1. Rencken is a journalist for RaceFans. The attribution here implies he is the one who got the quote from Hamilton in person. It most certainly doesn’t imply that a writer who has reported in F1 for 19 years without a team affiliation suddenly started referring to Mercedes in the first person…

      1. But when you read the article that is exactly what the headline suggests. No disrespect Dieter.

        1. The headline suggests that Hamilton said it’s too early to say Bottas is his main championship rival. The article suggests that Hamilton said this to Dieter Rencken. Both of these are exactly what happened. What is confusing you about this?

  10. With Ferrari running much faster after a very good test season, I thought it would be a ‘damage limitation exercise’ for Mercedes until their upgrades came etc. If that were the case then Mercedes have done a sterling job so far because as Hamilton said they have some upgrades coming for Spain. Ferrari may have already blown it in these first four races where they should have won at least 3 of them. China was the only race where Mercedes won it on merit. So I would say well done Mercedes.

  11. Todt: Thrilling race, looking forward to Barcelona GP.
    He must hav been watching something else then… hands down the most boring season since I started watching in 1977. Liberty needs to get a grip on the money burning factory teams. It is nit just boring, it also diminishes past achievements of other drivers

    1. I agree. Something needs to happen but I fear 2021 is going to be a disappointment. The major manufacturers have such a hold over the sport.

  12. “To early” blah blah, “Ferraris” blah blah “pace” blah blah.

    In reality Mercedes is a well oiled machine, easily beating Ferrari on all measurable ways.

    Ferrari seems to be going faster in a straight line, and had better performance in preseason testing.

    Good luck Mercsplaining how Ferrari are the favourites and Vettel is actually a title rival, unlike Bottas, who is having a record year of his own aswell.

    1. Actually…while Bottas is undoubtedly performing better this year he would also have been leading the WDC at this point last year had his tyre not blown in Baku. So more about Lewis warming himself in to the season I believe.
      All you snowflakes getting pseudo offended by Mercs business strategy need to let it go. This team knows how to win… who are you to question their policies? When they arent winning anymore your criticism may hold a little more validity, until then you’ll just be scoffed at.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        29th April 2019, 23:00

        You might want to read your comments before you post them… Jureo complimented Mercedes by saying they are a “well oiled machine” who are “easily beating Ferrari in all measurable ways.” That’s not a criticism.

        If you’re referring to to fact that people are getting annoyed at Mercedes pretending Ferrari are faster than them, how would that criticism hold any more validity if Mercedes were actually slower than Ferrari? It wouldn’t hold any validity as it mean he was criticising Mercedes for saying something that was actually correct….

  13. At the moment Bottas is his only rival; nobody else is close.

  14. Mercedes are battering Ferrari operationally which includes strategy, pitstops, tyre preparation and having 2 drivers delivering error free.

    However Ferrari fans will seethe red in the face that it’s purely down to the cars. Anyone who actually understands the sport can see that everything Mercedes are doing off track is perfection right now.

  15. It’s fair to say that if his car didn’t break down in Bahrain and if he didn’t bin it in qualifying the last race, LeClerc may be looking like the main rival right now. Mercedes beat the slower Ferrari by .3s in qualifying. That is real money in F1 terms, but let’s not forget that this is as fast as a person can click a stop watch on and off, and over a 100 second lap! That is, the difference now is that MB is executing, at the factory and on the track, and Ferrari is just making errors in the wrong way and at the wrong time. This scenario can be reversed very quickly. Everyone makes mistakes.

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