Lewis Hamilton says he has "a good opportunity" of victory in Sunday's Monaco GP
Mercedes tipped to lead from the front in Sunday's showpiece
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 23/05/13 8:23am
Hamilton - Lowe a great asset
A cautious Lewis Hamilton has downplayed Fernando Alonso's claim that Mercedes are the favourites to win this weekend's Monaco GP, but admitted he does have a realistic shot at registering his maiden victory for the team on Sunday.
Although Mercedes have failed to translate any of their three successive pole positions into a race victory, Alonso believes the W04's qualifying superiority, coupled with the notorious difficulty in overtaking around Monaco's cramped circuit, makes Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg the most likely victors on Sunday.
The 2008 title winner, however, isn't so sure.
"It's a good opportunity," Hamilton admitted before adding cautiously: "But you never know what the other teams are capable of.
"Mercedes were competitive here last year, and we have better a car this year, so we should be competitive. But the Red Bull, the Lotus and the Ferrari will be massively competitive too, so let's just wait and see."
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Yet while Hamilton is playing down his victory prospects, he is making no attempt to disguise his determination to win F1's showpiece event for a second time around the streets of Monte Carlo which he has made his home in recent years.
"I have never been so hungry to win," he told Sky Sports News. "It's been a great race for me for many years but I haven't won it as many times as I have wanted to do, so that's what I'm here to do."
So far this season, W04 has proved to be critically harder on its tyres than its front-running rivals and, although tyre-wear isn't expected to be a salient factor in the outcome of Sunday's race, Hamilton says Mercedes are working around the clock to find a solution.
"It's definitely something we are trying to improve and we are working hard to understand it," Hamilton confirmed during Wednesday's press conference. "A huge amount of work has gone into understanding why it's happening and it has already kick-started a lot of ideas.
"But I really feel that this should be a better weekend for us than the last."
Despite its flaws, the W04 is a far more competitive package than the MP4-28, the car produced by the McLaren team that Hamilton left at the end of last year, and any disappointment at Mercedes' lack of race pace can also be expressed as a measurement of how much they have exceeded expectations in the opening exchanges of the 2013 season. In what was supposed to be a year of transition, Hamilton has instead emerged as an outside, but credible, Championship contender.
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Meanwhile, the impression that Mercedes are a team on an upward curve has been endorsed by the recruitment of Paddy Lowe, another departee from McLaren, to take up the newly-created position of Executive Director (Technical) at Brackley.
"He's a great asset to the team," approved Hamilton. "I love working with Paddy. He's a great guy and very easy to work with."
And given Mercedes' tyres woes so far this season, it was no surprise to hear Hamilton also approve of Pirelli's proposal to strengthen their compounds for next month's Canadian GP.
"It can't be any worse for us!" he added.
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