Lewis Hamilton has talked down his F1 rivals by claiming he is one of the only drivers on the grid capable of challenging Max Verstappen. The Mercedes star is 265 points behind Verstappen in the Drivers’ Championship.
But he is currently ranking as the ‘best of the rest’, sitting third, just 39 points behind Sergio Perez, who has much faster machinery. Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris are within touching distance of Hamilton’s total.
However, the seven-time world champion thinks only he can match Verstappen’s pace if he was given a fair chance of challenging the Dutchman.
“I’m praying every day that we will close the gap and we will hit the ground running,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “I want to be fighting Max, I believe I’m one of the only drivers that can do so.”
Hamilton also pointed the blame as Mercedes’ pit stop crew are lagging way behind their competitors. In 2022, the Silver Arrows’ stops were the third slowest on the grid, according to official rankings.
This season Mercedes have not recorded a single fastest pit at any race. In comparison, Red Bull have eight, and Ferrari and McLaren have five apiece.
“We’ve got to have the package, not only the car but we’ve got to be operating better in our pit stops,” Hamilton added. “There’s so many areas we’ve got to be levelling up to match the champions.”
Hamilton’s pit stops were recorded at 3.6s and 3.4s during the United States Grand Prix last time out. Verstappen’s fastest tyre change was 2.5s. Toto Wolff has admitted that it is a cause for concern.
“Our mindset in the last 12 years, we don’t need to be world champions in pitstops,” he said. “We need to avoid very slow pitstops. And it’s coming to a situation now where we realise that it has got so competitive, and we just need to ramp up our game up there.
“That’s in terms of equipment and science around it, and the way we are set up, to avoid 3 or 3.5 seconds pitstops because all of that played a part.”