Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull could be closer to Mercedes in Spain this weekend
F1's form driver reckons World Champions can close gap this week
By Mike Wise in Barcelona. Last Updated: 09/05/14 8:08am
Can Mercedes maintain the huge advantage they've enjoyed so far this season? That's the question F1 is pondering as it returns to Europe, with Lewis Hamilton among those keen to discover the answer.
Refreshed and relaxed after a three-week break, Hamilton is also clearly confident after the hat-trick of wins that have re-enforced his pre-season status as title favourite.
He'll be looking to move past Nico Rosberg and seize control of the Drivers' Championship at this weekend's Spanish GP, where the Silver Arrows look set to lead from the front once more.
Team-mate aside, however, Hamilton has also been pondering where the next biggest threat might lie. Red Bull are on the right track now after their dismal start to 2014 while home hero Fernando Alonso will be keen to capitalise on Ferrari's first podium of season last time out in China.
"I guess the Red Bulls are at the back of my mind, thinking that they have a car with perhaps a little more downforce than us. They don't have as much power as us maybe," he said at the Circuit de Catalunya on Thursday afternoon.
"It is very much a downforce-dependent circuit and this weekend will be an indication of how good their car is.
"But definitely Fernando had a lot of pace in the last race, so it's the Red Bulls and Ferraris I'm going to keep an eye out for."
Mercedes might enjoy a power advantage but Hamilton said brute force will be less of a factor at the 4.655km track than it was in Shanghai, for example, where he led Rosberg home in Mercedes' third straight one-two finish.
"We have less straights here and shorter straights as well. If you look at data or the GPS of other teams, their loss is in the latter part of the straights," he explained.
"You kind of reduce that significantly here. So naturally, before everybody puts the upgrades on this weekend, the gap would be closer I think."
Hamilton said the upgrade packages teams have, as usual, brought to Barcelona will be another factor. "It'll be interesting to see if that gap is still there or not," he added.
Rosberg, meanwhile, acknowledged that he must end his team-mate's winning streak as soon as possible. "Every weekend is crucial but yes the momentum is on his side at the moment and I need to try and turn that around," he said.
"I'm here to win in Barcelona and to try and extend the lead in the championship."
The German sees no reason to change his approach, however, and also rejected the suggestion that he might try and "wind up" Hamilton.
"I'm comfortable to keep on doing what I'm doing. What I need is a normal weekend - I haven't had one of those lately. So I just need a normal weekend and I'm sure I'll be able to turn things around," said Rosberg, whose car suffered a telemetry failure in China.
And as for any 'mind games', he added: "We're great team-mates and of course there's going to be occasional discussions and things like that.
"But in general, there's not much of that at the moment."