Lewis Hamilton warns Ferrari are half a second faster after F1 Testing
Vettel sets quickest time of winter testing on final day at Barcelona before Hamilton then reveals Mercedes' pace
By Pete Gill and Matt Morlidge at Barcelona
Last Updated: 01/04/19 9:26am
Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari are currently half a second faster than Mercedes ahead of the start of the F1 2019 season.
"I think the gap [to Ferrari] is potentially half a second," Hamilton said during the lunchbreak on the final day of winter testing.
But the world champion then undermined his argument by all-but matching Ferrari's quickest time of the winter in the final hour of testing at Barcelona.
Hamilton's personal best lap of 1:16.224 compared to a 1:16.221 by Sebastian Vettel.
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Earlier, Hamilton had told reporters: "Ferrari are the fastest. This is going to be the toughest battle yet.
"Ferrari's pace is very, very good at the moment. The challenge is going to be harder than ever."
Hamilton added: "Testing is testing. There's no reward for being quick in Testing.
"We don't know because everyone has different engine modes and fuel loads.
"It will be four races before we really know where we stand."
Can Mercedes close the gap before first race?
Though teams have two weeks before the first race of the season in Melbourne - while Mercedes plan to make more significant changes to their W10 car - Hamilton added that he has "no reason to expect" the gap to Ferrari to decrease.
"We could get there and it could be bigger, we could get there and it could be less," he said.
"There's no way looking at the GPS to say what fuel load we're on and what engine mode they're on. They're faster on the straights than us, for example.
"Of course we hope it's not bigger than we might see now and we hope that it's better. But we can't bank on that so we've just got to work towards closing that gap that we think might be there."
Hamilton also recognised that Ferrari have often started the season strongly, but claimed Mercedes "weren't behind anywhere near as much" as half a second last year.
How good does the Ferrari look?
Trackside analysis from Sky F1's Karun Chandhok:
"Watching at T12 now - Vettel looking very hooked up through here on the 16.220 lap. No surprise it's the fastest lap of the test so far - car looks very forgiving on the edge. Even when it steps slightly out of line, Seb's able to carry good speed, pick up throttle and correct it."
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