Lewis Hamilton concedes Ferrari look “very, very strong” in pre-season testing but said he is not surprised as Mercedes’ Formula 1 rival often makes a fast start. 

Ferrari dominated the opening two days of the first test in Barcelona with 2019 drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc fastest on Monday and Tuesday. The Italian team has also impressed in terms of reliability, topping the mileage charts across the three days of running so far. 

“They have been looking great,” Hamilton said. “For us it has just been digging deep and trying to understand the car, so pretty much the same as the beginning of every year. 

Valtteri Bottas F1 Driver Profile - Mercedes

“Ferrari are very very strong right now as you have seen, they are racking up great mileage as well, it appears that they have a better package than they had last year which means it is going to be even more of a challenge for us this year.

“Ferrari always looks strong, particularly in the last few years, they have looked very strong at the beginning. So that is to be expected. We are just going about our process.”

Mercedes has made a low-key start to testing, opting to conduct long-distance running, though the reigning world champions are set to switch focus to some performance work for the first time on the final day of the first test. 

“It's not a time when we need to focus on others,” Hamilton explained. “We let everyone else do their thing and really dig deep and focus on making sure our processes are better than ever before, that we are analysing the data better than ever before and that from a drivers point of view the feedback is more accurate than every before. 

"That is what we are trying to focus on and making sure we get though our run plans . We will have a better idea this time next week but even then we still won't know what fuel loads people are on and who is showing their cards and who is not. 

The five-time world champion said Mercedes is working hard to “raise the bar” in all areas and he remains confident that his team will be able to hit back even if it does not make the best of starts to 2019. 

“Right now we are competing against our past selves as a team,” Hamilton said.

“We are trying to raise the bar in all those areas. All the engineers at the factory are raising the bar. It has been super impressive to see the atmosphere within the team after all these years of success. 

“To see the hunger and the drive is still there, no one is phasing out or backing off, everyone is pushing full steam ahead. It has been a difficult winter back at the factory I could see it and I have heard from the guys it was probably the most difficult one, with the rule change once again. 

“But if anyone can do it it I truly believe it is my guys. We are the only team to have won a championship in a crossover of rules situation and I am confident that even if we don't start on the right foot at the first race I feel confident that we've got.”