Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes don't yet possess the race pace to win grands prix
Former champion aware Ferrari and Lotus have pace edge
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 15/04/13 7:52am
Mercedes have admitted they still have work to do on the W04 after pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton was beaten to the line by both Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in the Chinese GP.
Having started the race perfectly positioned to repeat last year's maiden victory at Shanghai, a lack of race pace in the Mercedes was almost immediately apparent as Nico Rosberg fell back while Hamilton was overtaken by both Ferraris during his opening stint on the soft tyres.
Although the 2008 title winner was, by the narrowest of margins, able to rebuff the rapid advances of Sebastian Vettel in the final stages of the race to claim the final podium position behind Alonso and Raikkonen, Hamilton has refused to shy away from admitting Mercedes do not yet possess the pace required to win this season.
"I'm very happy with third," declared Hamilton. "I want to win and I don't like to go backwards, but generally we just don't have the pace of the Ferraris and Lotuses.
"Tyre management wasn't a problem, it's just that we didn't have the pace."
Although mindful that his new team are so far exceeding pre-season expectations, Hamilton is also aware that closing the gap will be a formidable challenge amidst F1's relentless development war.
"We have to remember that as we are progressing, everyone else will be progressing at the same time too," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. "We've got to do double steps and who knows how long it may take us because it's difficult to know how much pace we need. In qualifying, we are there, but in race conditions we are not.
"Who knows, the next race might be very different for us, but we've been on the two podium two races in a row and I'm so happy with it."
Ross Brawn highlighted the opening two stints as being where the race slipped out of Hamilton's grasp, but the Mercedes boss also remained upbeat about the challenge ahead.
"We weren't quite quick enough," he acknowledged to Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz.
"The soft tyre didn't work very well - probably worse than we thought. Then on the first set of primes, Lewis was complaining about a lot of understeer and that is when Fernando got away from us. We had a few problems in the middle of the race with a lot of rubber gathering up on the front wing, then when the rubber fell off, suddenly we had the balance back again and were able to put a squirt on towards the end.
"So it was quite a messy race, but we are not that far away from the front on genuine merit. Now we just need to find that little bit extra."
The Englishman added: "I think it is a good measure that we are disappointed with third. We hoped we could have made that extra step today, but third is good, another podium. Obviously we had a problem with Nico which we need to investigate, but we have made some progress for sure."
Hamilton currently sits fourth in the Drivers' World Championship, twelve points behind leader Sebastian Vettel.