JEDDAH – Lewis Hamilton, winner of a record 103 Formula One grands prix and seven world championships, said on Sunday he had never seen a car as quick as Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
The Mercedes driver was overtaken by the double world champion as Verstappen powered from 15th on the grid to second in a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix won by his Mexican teammate Sergio Perez.
It was Red Bull’s second one-two in two races this season and the only point they have missed so far was the bonus for fastest lap in Bahrain.
“I’ve definitely never seen a car so fast,” Hamilton said after finishing fifth in Jeddah.
“When we were fast, we weren’t that fast.
“That’s the fastest car I think, I’ve seen, especially compared to the rest. I don’t know how or why but he came past me with serious speed.
“I didn’t even bother to block because there was a massive speed difference.”
Before the race, Hamilton reckoned Red Bull enjoyed a one-and-a-half second advantage per lap.
Hamilton’s teammate George Russell, who finished fourth and was promoted to third before being demoted back to fourth on review, said already in Bahrain that he could see Red Bull winning every race.
He said then: “They’re in a league of their own at the moment.
“I think the view among the paddock is they’re probably not showing their full potential either, they’re holding something back, so I see no reason why they shouldn’t be the fastest car every weekend.”
While Russell was panned for being defeatist, he was backed by Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff, who told Austrian publication OE24: “We don’t want to finish second, we want to win. But there is a team miles ahead. They are playing with the competition, they don’t even have tyre wear.
“After the first grand prix, I also believe that they will win every race this year.”
It is not just Mercedes who are worried.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc added after qualifying: “Red Bull are on another planet. And we are struggling a little bit. So, we need to keep pushing. But that’s what we are doing as a team.”
Hamilton, who has previously been in a similar position to his Red Bull rivals, suggested all was not lost.
“You’ve got to give credit to what Red Bull have done,” Hamilton said on Sunday.
“The gap they have to the rest of the field, I think is bigger than we’ve seen probably since Mercedes in 2014. It’s a serious, serious gap and I guess everybody needs to keep working harder to understand how to close that gap.
“But we know we didn’t make the right decisions over the winter and I think we can regain some of that performance quicker than you would do ordinarily. So everything’s not all lost.”
Mercedes won eight constructors’ titles in a row from 2014 until Red Bull dethroned them in 2022.
Hamilton, who made his F1 debut with McLaren in 2007, has won six of his titles with Mercedes.
Amid the talk of Red Bull’s domination, this season’s surprise package Fernando Alonso, however, retained some optimism.
“We need some help from them,” said the 41-year-old Aston Martin driver, who finished third behind the Red Bulls in both races this season.
“But it will happen eventually. They cannot always finish first and second.
“At some circuits maybe reliability or whatever could help us and hopefully in those races we take the opportunity.” REUTERS, AFP