Lewis Hamilton says he will be tougher on track to Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas now that the Finn is again leading the Formula One championship, even if relations would remain respectful. The five-times world champion said after Bottas won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the team’s fourth successive one-two finish, that he had been “too friendly” at the start and “basically gave it to him”.
Hamilton made clear to reporters at the Spanish Grand Prix on Thursday that Bottas would have to fight hard for position from now on. “Ultimately, the core goal is for the team to finish at the top and I’m a team player,” he said.
“We’re not going to be touching (cars), that’s for sure. But in terms of giving up positions, that won’t happen again,” added the 34-year-old.
Bottas and Hamilton have two wins and two second places each but the Finn is a point ahead by virtue of the newly-introduced point for fastest lap at the Australian season-opener.
Hamilton starts as favourite for Sunday’s race, the first round of the traditional European season, as he chases his fourth Spanish Grand Prix victory with rivals Ferrari struggling to assert themselves.
The Briton, who has won the last two races at the Circuit de Catalunya, alluded to the internal strife that marked the years when he was partnered by now-retired 2016 champion team mate Nico Rosberg.
He assured reporters that was not about to be repeated.
“There’s things that happen in the background that you won’t know about,” he said. “What’s really important is that we pull together as a team. We’ve discussed it and hopefully rectified it and it won’t spring up again.
“What happened before, an individual just continued to go down that route, but that’s not what we have here.
“The respect is there. We have an agreed rule set out so that we do finish the races one-two and we play supporting roles either way.
“Yes, it’s going to be close and tight between us. Tension, that’s just there — there’s always tension when you want to beat someone else….but what we’re paid to do is win for the team. As long as we remember that we shouldn’t have problems.”
Ferrari need to recover their testing pace, says Vettel
Ferrari are taking strength from their pace in pre-season testing as they seek to dash Mercedes’ bid for a fifth successive one-two finish in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel, a four-times Formula One world champion with Red Bull, warned there was no silver bullet but recovering the sort of speed they showed in March would be a step in the right direction.
“Obviously, the car was really good in testing. We arrived in Australia and we struggled a little bit to feel the same,” the German told reporters on Thursday.
“I think the first four races for us have been a little bit up-and-down. There were stretches where the cars felt really good and other parts where the car hasn’t — but deep down we know that the car is strong.
“So, we are trying to put the bits together and trying to understand. We haven’t found the silver bullet – but in the last 10 years I never found the silver bullet so I don’t think it exists.”
Ferrari dominated pre-season testing at the Circuit de Catalunya but Mercedes have won every race since then in one-two formation.
Valtteri Bottas, the championship leader a point clear of Hamilton, is 35 ahead of Vettel while Ferrari are 74 behind the champions.
Vettel, as did Hamilton, said the reality was far closer than the numbers suggested and it just came down to getting the details right.
“Now, this weekend will be interesting for us because obviously we had such a good feeling and it’s not so long ago,” said the German.
“I’m pretty sure I remember how the car felt and it will be interesting to see how it behaves in the next couple of days. But I’m quite confident if we can get to that level then we should be very competitive.”
Ferrari have brought forward by two races an engine upgrade to give them the best chance of getting back in front of Mercedes at the circuit outside Barcelona.
Hamilton has won there for the past two years and three times in total.