Mercedes rival offers Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari hope

Hamilton opens up on plans to remain in F1 ahead of new season

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Mercedes former strategy director James Vowles has claimed Lewis Hamilton and George Russell can still win races this season despite the Silver Arrows’ early struggles. The new Williams team boss has predicted the German manufacturer will be competitive at the Spanish and British Grands Prix later this summer.

It could provide Hamilton with a chance to secure his first victory since the end of 2021 and just the team’s second under the new regulations. And Vowles has also offered Ferrari hope, insisting – unlike Russell and some others – that Red Bull will not completely dominate the season.

He said: “Do I think Red Bull will dominate the first part of the season? No, I doubt it. I think you’ll see Ferrari will be a lot closer to them here [in Jeddah] and it will be at tracks like Silverstone, Barcelona where Mercedes will be mighty as a result of what I know of that package.

“On balance across the season do I think they’re the fastest? Yes, but they still have a wind tunnel deficit. It’s not as big as I think it necessarily should be to balance things out, but it’s still there. It will still mean across the season that you’ll see other people moving towards them. And with the rules carrying over to next year, you have to keep developing this class, so things will close up.”

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Russell secured the constructors’ one and only victory in 2022 after a commanding drive in Sao Paulo. It was one of the team’s only high points in a difficult campaign which saw Hamilton and Russell unable to challenge the frontrunners.

The new W14 has failed to solve the problems with the ionic German marquee now the fourth-fastest squad behind Aston Martin. However, Vowles’ comments still differ from Russell who seemed to write off Mercedes’ chances.

In Bahrain, the 25-year-old predicted that Red Bull would win every race in 2023 after a dominant start to the season.

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He commented: “Red Bull has got this championship sewn up, I don’t think anyone is going to be fighting with them this year. I expect they should win every single race this season. That is my bet.”

Hamilton appears to hold more faith that his mechanics will develop a solution to bounce back but also hinted it will take a while to reach the top. The British icon explained: “I will win again. It’s just going to take some time.

“[We knew] we probably wouldn’t hit the ground straightaway at the front, but we thought should be there or thereabouts, so it was a bit of a shock when that wasn’t the case.

“I knew that we weren’t in the right place when we saw the car for the first time, it looked so different to that of our competitors. It’s always nerve-wracking in that moment.”

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