Hamilton fears Mercedes may be third-best in Monaco
Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton fears his Mercedes car may be only third-best in the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, as he expects strong showings from Formula 1 rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.
Hamilton endured a dreadful Monaco weekend in 2017, qualifying a lowly 14th and having to settle for seventh place in the grand prix.
It would be the only race in 2017 where neither Mercedes made it to the podium, and in the lead-up to this year's event the Silver Arrows' boss Toto Wolff admitted he was "bloody worried" about a repeat.
Speaking in the Wednesday press conference, Hamilton admitted it was a distinct possibility that Mercedes wouldn't be a match for its main rivals on pure pace around the streets of the Principality.
"I do anticipate it will be a difficult weekend," he said. "Not one that it is impossible, but it is a lot closer and we may not have the pace of the others.
"We will find out tomorrow the true pace and identity of what we arrive here with. I am excited for that challenge either way - if you look at last year, there were undercuts and overcuts [in the race], so anything is still possible."
Hamilton stressed that Mercedes "definitely learned a lot" from the disappointment of its 2017 Monaco showing, adding: "We are confident with our preparation. It has definitely been better than before."
Mercedes was actually the second-quickest car over one lap in Monaco last year – as, while Hamilton struggled, teammate Valtteri Bottas came up just half a tenth short of pole, qualifying behind the Ferraris but ahead of the Red Bulls.
But the Austrian team successfully used strategy to deny the Finn a podium finish on Sunday, and Hamilton believes the Red Bull car should be an even stronger proposition in Monaco this year, on evidence of its pace in the Barcelona circuit's twisty third sector.
"If you look at the last race [Spanish GP] and testing in February, and even in the test the other day, the Red Bulls were particularly quick in the last sector," he said.
"That is where they are always very strong so you can imagine they will be incredibly quick here this weekend.
"Ferrari were very, very strong here last year but for whatever reason Red Bull didn't get it together – but maybe this weekend they will."
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