Lewis Hamilton has said he doesn't 'really consider himself to be a championship contender at the moment', although he has insisted he is 'really happy' with how his season has gone so far and with the 'massive step' taken by Mercedes.
Hamilton sits fourth in the Drivers' classification heading into this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix with 99 points on the board, leaving him 17 points behind Kimi Raikkonen in third, and 58 points adrift of Sebastian Vettel, the current leader and man to beat.
To date Lewis has taken three pole positions and three podiums - and he has also scored more points than team-mate, Nico Rosberg, although the latter has taken two wins after triumphing in Monaco and Britain.
“I don't really look at myself as a championship contender at the moment,” Hamilton told reporters on Thursday when quizzed on F1 2013 so far. “Of course, I am fourth [in the Drivers'] and we're second as a team in the Constructors' Championship.
“At the beginning of the season everyone was writing me off and then all of a sudden they changed their opinions and we've had some really good results. That's just due to all the hard work the team are putting in and we're not giving up. We're going to keep pushing. We hope that we're going to get some wins in the future races coming up - it's going to be tough. But [overall] I'm really happy with how the season has gone so far, especially compared to where the team was last year, it's a massive step.”
Meanwhile, looking specifically to Sunday's race at the Hungaroring, Hamilton thinks it could be a difficult one due to the high temperatures.
“It's going to be tough this weekend definitely – the conditions will not help. Plus, we haven't driven the [new] tyres as everyone else has [after the test at Silverstone last week]. We've got a bit of catching up to do, but that's what we do best and we just have to work as hard as we can this weekend to try to understand the tyres and put ourselves in the best position possible. We have a lot of work to do to continue to improve our race pace, but I anticipate it will be a difficult weekend,” he stated.
“I'm sure everyone is going to have to open up their cars, so everyone is in the same boat in terms of car packaging and the heat that the cars are absorbing. Tyre-wise, of course there are teams that will deal with it slightly better than us, just naturally, and there are some people that will deal with it the same as us,” he added.
Pressed on the impact of missing the Silverstone Young Driver Test, Hamilton stated it isn't something that bothers him too much.
“It doesn't really faze me. I think it would have definitely helped if we were there and we have an understanding of how to set up the car with the new tyres and to see what kind of characteristics they have and how they behave on long runs and all those kind of things but we will try and find that out this weekend. At the end of the day, it is what it is and we will just try to do the best with what we've got. It's a great team, I have no doubt that we will make up for the lost time,” he concluded.