Lewis Hamilton says Red Bull just trying to deflect focus after latest Horner claim
Briton also not reading much into Malaysia advantage over Rosberg
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 03/04/14 5:50pm
Lewis Hamilton has shrugged off Christian Horner's claim that Mercedes could move even further ahead of the field in Bahrain this weekend amid further evidence of developing 'mind games' between Red Bull and F1's new pacesetters.
Ahead of Mercedes' attempts to secure a hat-trick of wins at the start of F1's new turbo era, Horner has suggested that the nature of the Sakhir circuit - which features several straights and places a premium on traction - should play to the strengths of the pacesetting W05 even more than Sepang did last week, when Red Bull trailed runaway victor Hamilton by 24 seconds.
"I think their advantage in Bahrain possibly will be bigger than it was here because obviously that's quite a power-dominated circuit," Horner told reporters last Sunday.
Having seen his quadruple World Champions usurped as F1's fastest team by Mercedes over the winter following the sport's 'rules reset', Horner suggested on the eve of last month's season-opener in Australia that he "wouldn't be a surprise if they finished two laps ahead of everyone".
For their part, Mercedes could be accused of engaging in their own mind games with their fast-recovery rivals after the team's key figures all stressed over their dominant Malaysia weekend that Red Bull remained F1's "benchmark".
Asked by Sky Sports News Bahrain on Thursday what he made of Horner's latest remarks, a relaxed-sounding Hamilton replied: "The name of the game's to take the focus off yourself and put it on someone else."
The Briton then joked: "So I'll do the same: we're expecting them to be really quick this weekend, blah, blah, blah, blah..."
The former World Champion insisted that rather than watching every step of Red Bull's ongoing recovery, Mercedes were just focused on ensuring they maintained their current margin of superiority.
"Every race it resets and you get a different reading. One race you'll bring an upgrade and the other will not, and then one race they'll bring an upgrade, so it doesn't really mean anything," Hamilton told a later press briefing.
"Of course in the last race in the wet [in qualifying] it looked like they were a lot closer and then in the dry it was a little bit different. But in the race they were very competitive and put competitive times in.
"This weekend, who knows whether we've brought new parts or that we move forward? Who knows whether they've brought new parts or improved their engines? We won't know so and it will reset every weekend. Our goal is to make sure that that gap doesn't decrease."
It's one race win apiece for the Mercedes pair so far in 2014
Despite Hamilton playing down the prospect of an even bigger runaway success, Mercedes do start the Bahrain weekend as the clear favourites for the win with their British ace particularly favoured by the bookmakers after his large margin of victory over team-mate Nico Rosberg at Sepang.
Hamilton, though, isn't taking anything for granted and insists the battle for supremacy at Mercedes requires ongoing focus and work.
"That's not really a question of confidence, it's how much work you put in and it's how you are that your car makes the end of the races. Naturally Nico's learnt a lot, as I have, from the last race and will continue to grow," the 29-year-old explained.
"The thing is now in Formula 1 everything is analysed for what you did better than the other person. Now I'm going to have to go and find some new techniques and then again after this race either I will learn from him or he will learn from me.
"It's a good duel between you and your team-mate because you have the same car. But of course the drive is to have races like the last one."
Sunday's race, exclusively live on Sky Sports F1, will start at 6pm local time - 4pm in the UK.