Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton says the 2023 Red Bull is “the fastest car I’ve seen compared to the rest” in Formula 1, arguing it is more dominant than any of the Mercedes cars he drove to world titles.
Hamilton finished 51 seconds off the lead Red Bull in the 2023 season’s Bahrain Grand Prix opener and 31 seconds off in Saudi Arabia with the caveat of the field having been bunched up mid-race in Jeddah by a safety car period that ended on lap 20 of 50.
He had Red Bull driver Max Verstappen start eight places behind on the grid due to the latter’s driveshaft failure in qualifying, but watched Verstappen come past with ease on lap 12 – albeit with Hamilton himself at that point struggling on a harder compound.
Hamilton said “it is not for me to say” whether there was a risk of fans tuning out due to Red Bull’s dominance, but added: “I’ve definitely never seen a car so fast.
“When we were fast we weren’t that fast. That’s the fastest car, I think, I’ve seen, especially compared to the rest, I don’t know why or how but he came past me with serious speed.
“I didn’t even bother to block because there was a massive speed difference… yep.”
Asked about the spectre of cars not even putting up a fight against the Red Bulls because the pace difference is too significant, Hamilton said: “Of course I think everyone wants to see everyone close, but it’s the way it is. Not my problem or fault.”
Team-mate George Russell offered a similar assessment when speaking to UK broadcaster Sky, albeit he did caveat it with the suggestion Red Bull wasn’t quite as dominant as Mercedes had been at the very start of the hybrid era.
“You’ve got to give credit to what Red Bull have done. The gap to the rest of the field, I think, is bigger than we’ve seen probably since Mercedes in 2014,” said Russell.
“You know, it’s a serious-serious gap, and I guess everybody needs to keep working harder to understand how to close that gap.”
Mercedes won eight consecutive constructors’ titles from 2014 to 2021, and drivers’ titles (six with Hamilton and one with Nico Rosberg) in the first seven of those years.
Ferrari did mount occasional hints of title challenges – particularly in 2017 and ’18 with Sebastian Vettel – but it was only when Verstappen beat Hamilton to the 2021 title with Red Bull that Mercedes was truly threatened for championships in that era.