Five-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton has reiterated his stance that Mercedes has work to do in order to catch Ferrari at the start of the 2019 season. 

Hamilton labelled Ferrari as the early favourites and claimed the Scuderia could be as much as half a second per lap quicker than Mercedes following a strong pre-season testing showing in Barcelona, though both teams ended winter testing split by just 0.003s in the timesheets. 

Speaking at the first FIA drivers’ press conference of the year ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton insisted it is “quite clear” to see where Mercedes stands heading into the campaign. 

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“I don’t think it’s difficult to read it, I think it’s quite clear,” Hamilton said. 

“However it’s difficult to know what everyone is doing, naturally we won’t fully know until we get out in the car tomorrow and come qualifying you start to get a better picture. 

“Usually over the first few races is when you really get an idea of where everyone stands. We said that we have work to do, we weren’t talking BS, we have work to do.”

The reigning world champions introduced a major aerodynamic package upgrade during the second week of testing in a bid to find extra performance and better understand its W10 challenger, having initially struggled with balance issues.

“Naturally after a test you always improve on the next days, the car gets older and older throughout the test,” Hamilton explained.  

“It wears and then you go away and analyse where you’ve been, new information gets put in the wind tunnel, engineers have new information and they work on it. 

“Everyone takes a step after testing. The car will be fresher here, everyone will have a much better understanding of it. I think it will be the same for everyone. 

“It’ll be interesting to see how Red Bull’s upgrade worked and I know Ferrari usually bring an upgrade to the first race so it will be interesting to see.”

Hamilton said he had been left inspired by the energy he witnessed within Mercedes’ ranks upon his last visit to its F1 factory ahead of the new season, with the German manufacturer looking to become the first team in history to record six consecutive world championship doubles. 

“We have got so many incredible people within the team and the energy is really, really inspiring to see so many people pumped and pulling together,” the Briton added. 

“The communication is better, just after the test I went back [to the factory] and Toto rallied the troops and we all sat together. 

“It was really impressive to see so many people so passionate about their jobs and so passionate about racing and always wanting to do a better job to improve and knowing where they can they improve. 

“So that’s really cool to see and encouraging. They are the soldiers, the real true fighters within the team and I know they will be giving everything to make sure that we progress.”

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