Azerbaijan Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton says his 2018 Mercedes Formula 1 challenger is proving more difficult to drive compared to its predecessor.

Hamilton claimed a surprise victory in Baku during a crazy race, despite struggling for pace for much of the weekend and trailing Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the closing stages until the Finn suffered a dramatic race-ending puncture with three laps to go. 

Aside from its dominant qualifying display at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes has endured a tricky start to the new season as the German manufacturer went three races without a win for the first time in the V6 hybrid era, having particularly found trouble in getting Pirelli’s 2018 tyres to work effectively in all conditions. 

And the reigning world champion believes Mercedes’ 2018 car - the W09 - is harder to drive than its 2017 contender, which team boss Toto Wolff described as a “diva” due to its unpredictable nature and fluctuating performance across the season. 

“We’ve just got to refine it a little bit and make it a little bit easier to drive,” Hamilton said. “She definitely isn’t as easy to drive as it was last year. So yeah, that’s what we’re going to continue to work to.”

Despite taking the championship lead for the first time this year, Hamilton insists Mercedes remains behind chief rivals Ferrari and admits Mercedes still has “a lot of work to do”.

“I came out in the lead and honestly I couldn’t believe that I was where I was, that I had a Ferrari behind me and I was just praying that I could keep it together, stay focussed and bring it home. 

“We’ve definitely got a lot of work still to do, we still are behind, whilst we finished ahead that was due to, as I said, lots of different circumstances getting in the way. 

"Kimi was nearly on pole, two-tenths ahead of Sebastian, their pure pace is a lot ahead of ours at the moment. Then, within the race, I’m sure Sebastian was managing but I’m sure their pace also in the race is a little bit up on ours. We definitely are there in the mix and we’ve not got a terrible car at all, by any means."

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