Lewis Hamilton expects Ferrari to recover after poor F1 2019 start
"I'm sure they'll come back strong so we've got to stay on our toes," says Hamilton as he looks forward to Mercedes-Ferrari battle
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 19/03/19 12:37pm
Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes should expect a Ferrari resurgence in F1 2019's next races after pre-season predictions were turned on their head at the Australian GP.
Mercedes' one-two qualifying and race finish in Melbourne was an "incredible achievement", according to Hamilton, after a winter testing programme where their Italian rivals had looked ominously strong.
Asked if he was surprised to see Ferrari so far behind on the opening weekend, Hamilton replied: "Everyone is, probably. No one was expecting to have a gap like that when we came into the weekend.
"Honestly, what I was shown and led to believe from the analysis we were given, was that they were ahead. It obviously wasn't the case during this weekend and I'm not quite sure why their performance was how it was.
"I wouldn't say we particularly overdelivered, we did our normal job in the sense of our operations, and the team did an exceptional job throughout the weekend.
"I don't know what their problem was. I'm sure they'll come back strong in the next races so we've got to stay on our toes."
How did car damage impact Hamilton?
After claiming all 11 of Mercedes' race wins last year on the way to his fifth world title, Hamilton was comfortably beaten by Valtteri Bottas to the Silver Arrows' first victory of 2019 - and by an usually large 20-second margin.
In the key move of the race, Bottas overtook his polesitting team-mate at the start and the Finn always appeared in control thereafter for an impressive win.
Mercedes confirmed after the race that the floor on Hamilton's car had sustained damage - a problem the world champion later said occurred on lap four. The issue cost the W10 rear downforce, further complicating balance issues.
Hamilton said he felt inside the W10 that "something didn't feel right". Mercedes are still investigating what triggered the damage, with debris from other incidents on track one potential cause.
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"I'm generally happy with how I drove. I did what I needed to do - no more, no less," explained the world champion.
"I don't focus on the gap [to Bottas] because I allowed the gap to be the size that it was, so that's not really an issue for me. Obviously the strategy was not ideal in the scenario I had but with what I was given I think I did a relatively decent job. But obviously the start I lost out by a lot."
Hamilton's second stint of 43 laps also meant he had to manage his medium tyres to the finish. Mercedes pitted Hamilton to cover Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who had stopped a lap earlier.
"I drove well off the pace to make sure at the end of the race I still had life left in the tyres," added Hamilton, who saw off a late challenge from Red Bull's Max Verstappen to keep second place.
Although Hamilton has now not won in Melbourne for four years despite a run of six consecutive pole positions, the five-time champion says he heads back to Europe in a positive frame of mind.
"I've been here a long time and it's a long year to go and there's a lot of knowledge we can take from this race. The glass is half full," he said.
"Positive things to take. I'll go back to Europe straight away and I'll be back in the factory during the week and by the time I get there, Wednesday or Thursday, I'll have a much better understanding of the damage that was on the car, understanding about the start and how to correct that for the next one."
Round two of the season takes place in Bahrain on March 29-31, live only on Sky Sports F1.
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