Lewis Hamilton believes that Ferrari has closed the gap to Mercedes at the front of the Formula 1 field over the winter, and anticipates a “good fight” with the Italian marque this year.
Hamilton clinched his third F1 world championship in 2015 as Mercedes enjoyed a second year of dominance, claiming 16 race wins and a record total of points.
The debut of its 2016 car at testing in Barcelona sent out an ominous warning shot to the rest of the field, and although Hamilton heaped praise upon the new W07, he remains very wary of the threat posed by Ferrari.
“The winter tests went fantastically well, and our new car is absolutely incredible. I never thought that we would be driving quite so many kilometres in preparation,” Hamilton said.
“We were with the team yesterday and congratulated everyone involved on this great Silver Arrow. This is a real team effort from all our colleagues in Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart.
“Nevertheless, I’m expecting this season to be an uphill battle. Ferrari have caught up and Nico [Rosberg] is always a strong opponent.
“I believe that we have a good car, but Ferrari were posting some impressive times during the tests – both on the fast laps and on longer runs.
“We are certainly in for a good fight, but after all that’s exactly what everyone wants. In any case, I’m looking forward to it very much.”
Hamilton will begin his title defence at the Australian Grand Prix next weekend, with the race taking place on March 20.
MARANELLO, Italy — Mick Schumacher, son of the legednary seven-time champion, will have an official Formula One drive during an F1 race weekend for the first time next week at the Nurburgring, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari said Tuesday.
Schumacher gets the practice drive in an Alfa Romeo on Oct. 9 on his home track in Germany as a member of Ferrari’s young driver program, taking over Antonio Giovinazzi’s car for the first session of the weekend.
“I am overjoyed to get this chance in free practice,” Schumacher said in a statement. “I’m going to prepare myself well, so that I can do the best possible job for the team and gain some valuable data for the weekend.”
The 21-year-old Schumacher leads the Formula 2 standings after winning races in Monza and Sochi. He won the European Formula 3 championship in 2018 and tested a Ferrari F1 car in Bahrain in April 2019. He also has done demonstration runs in his father’s old cars, most recently this month ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix in a championship-winning 2004 Ferrari.
Michael Schumacher holds the F1 record with 91 victories, which Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of tying.
Ferrari said two other drivers in its academy program will also get practice drives in Formula One.
Callum Ilott, a British driver who is second to Mick Schumacher in F2, will drive an F1 Haas at the Nurburgring on the same day as Schumacher. Russian driver Robert Shwartzman will drive in practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 11, though Ferrari hasn’t said for which team.
The German round was added to the F1 schedule after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the season and will be officially known as the Eifel Grand Prix after a nearby mountain range. The Nurburgring last hosted F1 in 2013.