Red Bull Racing has been so utterly dominant during the early stages of the F1 2010 World Championship campaign as to 'take the Mickey', Lewis Hamilton has bemoaned – but the 2008 world champion remains convinced that McLaren-Mercedes will 'catch up at some stage' and take the battle to the energy drinks-backed outfit.
Either Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber has set pole position for each of the opening six grands prix in Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia, China, Spain and Monaco, and following RBR's second commanding one-two of the season around the tight, tortuous streets of Monte Carlo last weekend, the German and Australian are tied together atop the drivers' title standings, with Red Bull similarly leading the way in the constructors' table.
Indeed, had it not been for a poor run of reliability in the earliest races, the Milton Keynes brigade would indubitably be even further ahead. The margin between Vettel and the fastest of the non Red Bulls in qualifying in Barcelona was more than seven tenths, and in Monaco Hamilton's best race effort was more than a full second adrift, as the British star finished a comparatively lowly fifth, and has consequently slipped to sixth in the chase for the crown.
“They are still really far ahead,” the 25-year-old – a former winner in the glamorous Principality – told Reuters
. “They have been so quick – they didn't even push in this race. It's not scary, it just takes the Mickey a little bit. They were just not pushing at all really. It was a bit too easy for them...but I know that we will catch up at some stage and then we will be racing with them and they won't be having such easy races.
“Hopefully, we will be able to challenge them down the back straights [in Istanbul]. Things might turn around. The guys might find something in the wind tunnel and we'll have it at the next race. I'm praying every day that we do; I doubt it will be the case, but you never know what will happen in this sport. If [Red Bull] had won every race they would be miles ahead by now. They would have so many points, so for us it's quite good at the moment to see we've got a chance.”
Indeed, the reliability woes in Monaco were on McLaren's side, with Hamilton's team-mate, compatriot and title-winning successor Jenson Button becoming the only one of the 'grandee' teams' drivers not to make the chequered flag, dropping out as early as lap three with a blown engine, with it surrendering the championship lead the 30-year-old had carried into the weekend.
The issue was caused by a mechanic having erroneously left a bung in a seedpod, restricting the airflow and causing the engine to overheat during the race's first safety car period – not the first time McLaren has been undone in 2010 through human error. The defending F1 World Champion was somewhat more pessimistic about the forecast for what lies ahead, fearful that RBR might just make hay whilst the sun continues to shine.
“You never expect those sorts of things to happen,” Button rued of his early bath from the sport's blue riband
event. “I'm sure the person who did it is devastated, so there's no use walking around and pointing the finger at anyone – it's not all bad. Everyone has had reliability issues at the start of the year, and I just hoped we wouldn't have them.
“At the moment you would say the Red Bull is the most competitive car – they have qualified on pole for every race, which is a big advantage – and when you are in our position trying to catch them, you can't have issues. We have some new parts that will be on the car in Turkey. I hope that Red Bull don't have the advantage they had in Barcelona, but I don't think they will. If the Red Bulls arrive at the next race a second quicker than us, when we have new parts, we are in trouble.