SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton has urged Mercedes to step up a gear against a resurgent Ferrari team he believes are now more determined to succeed.
“It feels like they are hungrier at the moment,” the five-times world champion told Sky Sports television after finishing fourth in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Ferrari won the race in one-two formation, with Sebastian Vettel leading Charles Leclerc, for their third successive victory.
The Italian team have also started the last three races from pole position.
“We’ve got to step it up. We’ve got the ability, we’ve got the team, we’re still the best team,” said Hamilton, who still increased his championship lead over team mate Valtteri Bottas to 65 points with six races remaining.
“We’ve just got to stop dragging our feet and get on,” he added, promising to “get back in the scrum” and come back fighting at next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.
Hamilton had started the night race on the front row, alongside Leclerc, but lost out on strategy after Vettel pitted first of the top three.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff had said on Saturday that qualifying was a wake-up call and he was just as forthright a day later.
“We had a slow car out of the blocks at the beginning, after every single (safety car) re-start we were lacking pace and that’s the harsh reality,” said the Austrian, whose team started the season with five one-two finishes.
“I think we had a car capable for pole yesterday and we had an opportunity to win today, but we made too many mistakes. We’re aware that we didn’t deliver to the standards we set ourselves this weekend.”
Andrew Shovlin, the team’s head of trackside engineering, said Mercedes had missed an open goal by not taking an ‘undercut’, pitting early to try and leapfrog then-leader Leclerc, on lap 19.
Ferrari did that with Vettel in what turned out to be the decisive move of the race.
“We had talked about it but didn’t really react quickly enough to how fast Charles’ tyres were dropping,” said Shovlin.
“We should have made that call with Lewis, and made it late enough that they would not be able to react. That was our opportunity to win and it’s upsetting when you let something like that slip through your fingers.”
Mercedes have won every title in the V6 turbo-hybrid era that started in 2014 and are heading towards an unprecedented sixth successive drivers’ and constructors’ title double this season.
Hamilton’s closest rivals after Bottas are Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, both 96 points adrift of the Briton in the championship. Hamilton has won eight races so far this year.
Mercedes have a 133 point lead over Ferrari in the constructors’ standings.
(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)