Lewis Hamilton was left confused by the pace of Red Bull in F1 Saudi Arabian GP where Max Verstappen passed him at ease.
There was already chatter about Red Bull’s pace and dominance in Bahrain testing. There was optimism ahead of Saudi Arabia where the long straights would have brought the field a bit closer, but it wasn’t to be considering the pace that Red Bull showed.
Even though Ferrari came close on Saturday, things were different on Sunday where Sergio Perez took a commanding win and Verstappen came through from 15th to second and still managed to build a good bridge between him and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.
In that recovery driver, Mercedes’ Hamilton was confused and surprised when he was passed by Verstappen. The Brit reckoned Red Bull to be a fast car which he hasn’t seen himself even when Mercedes were dominating the sport some years ago.
Hamilton didn’t even put up a fight when Verstappen came towards him and passed him at ease. “I have definitely never seen a car so fast,” said Hamilton to media. “When we were fast, we were not that fast. It is the fastest car I have seen, especially compared to the rest. I don’t know how, but he came past me with some serious speed and I didn’t even bother to block him because there was a massive speed difference.
“Everyone wants to see a close battle, but it is the way it is. It is not my problem, it is not my fault. We are still a long, long way off Red Bull. It’s definitely strange to see that Ferrari are behind us and it’s positive for us. It’s a different surface here and we don’t really understand why on this surface our car works one way and different on another.
“It will be up and down through the first three races. Hopefully we can get some upgrades ASAP and try to close that gap to the Astons,” summed up Hamilton, who was fifth on the road which was a good end where he managed to beat both the Ferrari cars. He was not the only one to talk about Red Bull’s pace as George Russell reckoned the same.
“You’ve got to give credit to what Red Bull have done,” said Russell. “The gap to the rest of the field, I think, is bigger than we’ve seen probably since Mercedes in 2014. It’s a serious-serious gap, and I guess everybody needs to keep working harder to understand how to close that gap.”
The Brit was given a podium but it was retaken but he managed to beat Hamilton despite a moment when he closed in on him being on a different strategy. It seemed for a moment that the #44 car was faster but eventually Russell had enough legs with a set-up that worked for him and not the seven-time champion.
“The strategy didn’t really work out for me, the set up was a little bit off – if I had the set up George had, I would have been in a better position,” Hamilton said. “There was a 50-50 choice, I chose one way and he chose the other, and more often than not, the way he went was the wrong one but it just happened to work. I could only match his pace rather than be quicker this weekend, but I’ll work hard to make sure we’re in a better position next time.”
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