Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes have a PROBLEM ahead of Australian Grand Prix – Mika Hakkinen
That’s the verdict of two-time former Formula One world champion Mika Hakkinen.
The Silver Arrows go into this season looking to retain their drivers’ and constructors’ championships for a sixth successive season.
Mercedes have dominated F1’s hybrid engine era with current champion Hamilton winning four of the last five titles.
Hamilton survived closer competition from Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari last season, with the Brit streaking ahead of his rival after a surprise German Grand Prix triumph changed the landscape of the season.
But this year, pre-season testing appeared to suggest that Ferrari have a significant advantage in speed and comfortability.
Hamilton himself claimed that the Prancing Horse have a half-second jump on Mercedes and acknowledged: “We have a hill to climb, but we know how to do it.”
Vettel and new team-mate Charles Leclerc both appeared more at ease in their SF90 than Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas did in the W10 in Barcelona as Mercedes struggled with tyre wear.
Yet former McLaren driver Hakkinen is sceptical as to how much an advantage the Italian constructors will have when the season gets underway.
He told Unibet’s Inside Formula One podcast: “They obviously do have a problem, looking at what’s been happening in testing so far. It’s not a secret.
“But you are looking at the team who has won the world championship five times in a row.
“The overall package, for all the planning with the Grand Prix, the whole concept of the car is solid, strong and the technical team is a very powerful team.
“If we’re looking just one single lap time, yes they have a problem you can see that.
“But when you’re talking about the race, long term, they have massive experience where they can gain good results at the end of the day.
“You have teams who have improved a lot but they don’t have the five times world championships in their pockets.
“They have weaknesses coming during the season where Mercedes can definitely make a big gain.
“So yes they have a problem but I don’t think in terms of how big the problem is, that is a different story.”
The 2019 F1 season gets underway this Sunday in Melbourne, Australia (5.10am UK time).