Former Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe says the defending Formula 1 world champion’s efforts to maintain its advantage at the sharp end of the grid in 2018 shouldn’t be dismissed.

After seeing Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton storm to pole position at the 2018 F1 opener with a lap record 1m 21.164s – over sixth-tenths faster than nearest rival Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen – Lowe has been impressed by the step up in performance the German manufacturer has produced.

The Williams Chief Technical Officer accepts the gap to the front three teams of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull remains an ongoing challenge to his team but has underlined Mercedes credentials to keep a step in performance on its rivals despite the expected convergence due to the stable technical rules.

“I think the order is as expected from winter testing,” Lowe said. “Congratulations to Mercedes for doing another good car.

“They seem to have maintained a gap and that shouldn’t underestimate the work required to do that. In terms of the front three teams and the gap to the midfield, that’s a whole other subject. That’s pretty much stayed the same.”

Lowe also says Williams as a customer Mercedes engine team does not have a “party mode” with its engine for qualifying by inferring it is a psychological game being used by Hamilton to gain an edge on his team's rivals.

“It’s interesting to wind up others to perhaps suggest there is one but there isn’t,” he said. “We all get the same. I am sure of that. But it’s still worth winding up certain others.

“There’s often some discussion about some extra mode that arises in Q3. But all credit to some of the drivers involved, they can dig deep and deliver unless they were doing something we don’t know about.”

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