Montmelo (Spain), March 2 Defending Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton said that bitter rivals Ferrari looked to have developed by far the fastest car, potentially turning the season ahead into one of the most challenging, as pre-season testing at the Montmeló race track near Barcelona drew to a close.
The blood-red Prancing Horse team from Italy also began as the fastest team last season, but due to a combination of errors Hamilton’s Mercedes squad leapfrogged the Italians and he became only the third driver ever to claim five world championships, following in the tracks of legendary Argentine racer Juan Manuel Fangio and Germany’s Michael Schumacher who went on to claim an unprecedented eight titles before retiring, reports Efe news.
“Last year, (Ferrari) arrived here with a car that was working well, but they’ve done even better this year,” Hamilton said on Friday.
“This is going to be the toughest battle yet, which is exciting. Ferrari, their pace is very, very good at the moment, so the challenge is going to be harder than ever,” he added.
Hamilton said that as a consequence, Mercedes would have a hill to climb to be able to match the speed and handling of Ferrari, whose cars have dominated the pace at pre-season testing over the last three days in Spain’s Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, pushed hard on the softest tyre compound, Pirelli’s C5, which is capable of giving the fastest speeds, but at one minute 16.561 seconds, he was a third of a second slower than the Ferraris on the same rubber.
Still, Bottas was able to wring the second-fastest time, behind Ferrari’s four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.