LEWIS HAMILTON reckons it could take his Mercedes team A YEAR to catch Max Verstappen's speedy Red Bull.
Mercedes have decided to cut their losses and plan on redesigning their car for this season after being thumped by Red Bull in the opening two races.
Boss Toto Wolff says there are positive signs that they are improving but Hamilton, who went winless last season for the first time in his F1 career, warns it could take them months.
He said: "It's going to take us the rest of the year to potentially close that gap. If you look at the Red Bull, it is just going to continue to evolve most likely.
"Some cars do plateau in terms of performance. It can't just keep going – but maybe it can, they have a great team around them and I am sure they will continue to add downforce.
"We have shown in the past that we can develop quickly and hope that is the case that, as the potential of the car opens up, we will full steam ahead in that direction.
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"There's lots of work going on. I'm just trying to make sure I stay consistent and I'm training quite a lot between races, and I'm the fittest I can be so that at some stage I do get the car that we've all been hoping for.
"If that happens, whether that's two or 10 or 20 races away, I want to make sure I'm ready for that day."
Speaking ahead of this weekend's Australian GP, Hamilton, who was fifth last out in Saudi Arabia and behind team-mate George Russell says he's "praying for rain".
He added: "This weekend I'm just hoping for rain if I'm honest because that'll make it a little more exciting from our point of view.
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"But I'm just hoping the gap isn't a second and we can hit the ground running with the set-up."
Meanwhile, the seven-time world champion has praised the decision to fine Nelson Piquet for his racist and homophobic language.
Last week the Brazilian courts hit Piquet, 70, with a £780,000 fine for making the comments about Hamilton in an interview.
The three-time world champion initially apologised for the comments, which related to a crash between Hamilton and Max Verstappen, who is in a long-term relationship with his daughter, Kelly.
However, he then tried to make an excuse for the racial slurs, saying they were colloquial terms.
But after pressure from groups in Brazil, including the country's National LGBT+ Alliance, they successfully sued Piquet.
Hamilton was quizzed on Piquet's punishment and said: "Back when it happened I made comments on it.
"I still believe that we shouldn't be giving people that are just full of hate a platform.
"I'd like to acknowledge the Brazil government; I think it's pretty amazing what they've done in holding someone accountable, showing people that that is not tolerated.
"Racism and homophobia is not acceptable, and there is no place for it within our society. So I love that they've shown that they stand for something.
"I wish that more governments out there would do that, such as you've just seen in Uganda [who passed a bill to impose a death penalty for homosexuality].
"Obviously, there are over 30 countries in Africa and the Middle East [where homosexuality is illegal]. There's a lot of that can be learned from that."
Hamilton says he will not speak to Michael Masi – the sacked Formula One race boss who cost him a record eighth world title.
Masi, 44, is back at an F1 paddock for the first time since he bungled the outcome of the Abu Dhabi GP in 2021 which gifted Verstappen the win and the title.
The Australian left the FIA last summer and has since been appointed chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission in his homeland.
Massi was clearly not hiding in the paddock but when asked if he plans to speak to the ex FIA Race Director to seek an explanation for what happened in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton replied: "I don't. I am just focused on my future. I am focused on trying to get back to winning. There is nothing to say."
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