Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari could potentially be half a second per lap quicker than Mercedes heading into the new Formula 1 season.

F1’s pre-season test running comes to a close in Barcelona on Friday, with Ferrari currently leading the timesheets through Sebastian Vettel.

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Mercedes has struggled to match Ferrari for pace either on short or long runs throughout this week’s running, but Hamilton expressed confidence that his team would be able to make up the gap.

“It doesn’t make it easier, that’s for sure,” Hamilton said of the gap to Ferrari. “Naturally it makes it harder.

“Already last year there were many, many occasions where we as a team were behind on performance so we had to overachieve on delivery. Now we just have to reach even further than we did last year when we were behind.

“We weren’t behind anywhere near as much as that I would say last year, so now we have to reach even further. That means we have to squeeze our performance even more, but we’re going to have to be careful also in that scenario because that can just push you over the edge and you can have faults.

“But I’ve got the best team around. We’ve got experience. It’s no coincidence that we’re world champions, so we just have to be diligent and stay balanced.”

Asked how far ahead Ferrari was right now, Hamilton said: “I’m not quite sure, but I think it is potentially half a second. Something like that potentially.

“We will be analysing a lot from this test and there will be some mods that we will try to implement for the race, but there is obviously not a lot of time. But over the next week we will try to gain another tenth at least in our understanding of the car.

“The car is old now and worn and torn, so we will have new components and all of that stuff will come along. It will be interesting.

“We really won’t know, because everyone will have different power modes and fuel usage, and you don’t know what everyone is doing.

“So Melbourne will be the first time you get a sight of it and then it will be a good four races before you know just where you stand.”

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