SHANGHAI, China — After qualifying fourth and over half a second off Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari at the Chinese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton is not sure Mercedes will be able to challenge for the race win on Sunday.
Following Friday practice in Shanghai, Hamilton looked set to take the fight to Ferrari in qualifying and his car had much stronger race pace over longer runs. But after two straight defeats to Ferrari at the last two races — and seeing the one-lap pace of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen on Saturday — Hamilton is not convinced he can turn his fortunes around on Sunday and take his first win of 2018.
“I don’t know if we can challenge, we’re half a second behind today,” he said. “Honestly I can’t tell you if we can challenge. We were quicker in the last race but they were able to hold on. They will probably do the same tomorrow.
“I’m confident I can stay where I am, but moving forward is going to be tough. Valtteri did a good long run, the two guys ahead did a good long run but you need a second [in performance over the car in front] to overtake here.”
But Hamilton’s pessimism may be misplaced. During Q2 the Mercedes was a match for the Ferrari on the soft tyre that all four drivers on the front two rows will start the race on that compound. What’s more, warmer temperatures are likely to result in track conditions closer to Friday when the Mercedes looked stronger.
Asked why he was more competitive on the harder compounds, Hamilton said: “I can’t explain it. That run [on the softs] the car felt more right and all the other runs it didn’t. The tyres were just different for some reason on that specific run, but again it’s a temperature thing.
“The guys will do a lot of analysis but it’s very hard to understand it when you go out on a softer tyre and it doesn’t feel anywhere as good as it did on the soft. I don’t have the answer to it.”
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