Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP prepares to drive on the grid before the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on April 28, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. File photo: GETTY IMAGES/MARK THOMPSON
Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP prepares to drive on the grid before the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on April 28, 2019 in Baku, Azerbaijan. File photo: GETTY IMAGES/MARK THOMPSON

Baku — Lewis Hamilton has warned Ferrari to shape up and mount a serious title challenge after his Mercedes team swept the first four races of the season.

The defending five-time world champion, who finished second behind his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, said the Italian team need to fight back hard to stay in contention to avert a similar Mercedes procession in May’s Spanish Grand Prix.

“Until they start to perform at the level we are now, then this is how it’s going to be,” said Hamilton, who slipped a point behind championship leader Bottas on Sunday when Mercedes collected a record season-opening fourth straight one-two.

“We definitely didn’t expect to have this level of performance, but I am glad we do. I think the team is outperforming itself. They’re going to have to pick it up if they want to fight us.”

Ferrari’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel finished third and his teammate Charles Leclerc fifth.

“He is right,” said Vettel, who has not tasted victory since 2018’s Belgian Grand Prix. “We need to pick it up. We need stronger pace. It is as simple as that.

“It’s like a Rubik’s cube where you have to have everything in the right order. We have a good car, but we’re not using it to get the results we should be getting.”

Ferrari’s optimism after dominating pre-season testing in Spain seems a distant memory after Sunday’s race and it badly needs to rediscover its elan in Catalonia.

Hamilton said he also wants a new display unit in his cockpit after losing time in a virtual safety car (VSC) period, falling from 2sec behind Bottas to 3.6sec.

“It’s all fine margins,” said Hamilton. “Valtteri did a better job in qualifying, which put him in pole position. Then, at the start, another fine margin for him, which I will have to work on.”

“There’s some things to fix on the dash to make sure it doesn’t happen again — just technical stuff, nothing major. But again it’s all part of the fine margins that make the difference.” 

AFP