Aston Martin appears to be “fully in the fight” at the front of the Formula 1 grid based on pre-season testing heading into the Bahrain Grand Prix, according to Lewis Hamilton. And the seven-time world champion says he is relishing the challenge of having another team in the mix.
Mercedes had a tough pre-season despite improving its proposing issues compared to 12 months ago, struggling with car balance and raw pace over the three days last week. By contrast, Aston Martin appeared comparable to both Mercedes and Ferrari on certain runs, and Hamilton believes it’s another rival that is a welcome addition to the fight between the top teams.
“I’m really happy to see that Aston has taken such a step forward and they are, as far as we know, fully in the fight,” Hamilton said. “From all the data we have, you don’t know what fuel loads people are on and these different kinds of things — it’s a bit all over the place — but it looks like they are very, very strong and they could be fighting right at the front.
“We’ll find out over the next day or so. I can’t say whether they are ahead of us or we are behind them, but I’m hoping always that there will be more than just two teams or three teams in the mix.”
While he’s positive about Aston’s improvements, Hamilton says Mercedes has a lot of work to do to get close to Red Bull and suggests he is still not happy with the W14.
“In terms of the things we have here, we have got a wing that that we are going to try and we hope will be more suited to this circuit,” he noted. “I don’t think that’s going to change everything massively, but hopefully that will push us in the right direction.
“We’ve had a lot of data to go through and we have definitely a much better understanding of where we have to put the car and where the weak points of the car are. So those won’t be fixed right now, but the men and women back at the factory are focused on getting that fixed as soon as possible.”
Hamilton says the gains made when it comes to Mercedes’ porpoising at least allow the team a more clear understanding of the weaknesses that need working on.
“I think everyone who has gone through those three days will know where they sit, and what tools they’ve got to work with. Naturally you arrive here with a much better understanding of the challenges that are ahead. I think we’ve had a few really good days of digesting the data, going through — I’ve been on calls every day with the team, deep diving…
“Everyone’s been working so hard to make sure we arrive here as best prepared we can with the information we have. We still have a good challenge ahead of us.”
The Briton at least feels he is starting with a little more certainty about the past forward.
“I knew from the moment I drove the car where we were and the challenges that we would be facing,” he said. “On a positive, not having the bouncing this year is a huge plus, and I think trying to understand what the problems were whilst having that bouncing really masks so many, it makes it difficult to figure out what those are.
“So we don’t have that now, and we can focus on just pure performance. I’m encouraged to see the focus and the courage of everyone with the team, so focused on getting us back to the top. We’re not where we wanted to start a season, naturally. But this still is a multi-world championship-winning team and group of people. So I believe in that.”