Hamilton hails Mercedes' update package in Spain

Hamilton hails Mercedes' update package in Spain

One possible reason for the eye-catching new features could be Hamilton's apparent lack of pace in the Russian Grand Prix, during which he struggled to get his tires up to temperature - something that will be helped by the extra force from the wings.

After last year's win-less campaign it has been a welcome return to form for the Scuderia with Vettel sitting on two races wins while Hamilton and Bottas have one apiece.

Four-time champion Vettel won three races in his first season at Ferrari after quitting Red Bull.

Niki Lauda has said that Mercedes have work to do to catch up with Ferrari.

"If you have another team that is fighting for the championship and you have a driver that is more than 20 points behind, he will need to do the same".

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest, almost one second slower than the Mercedes pair, with Vettel in fourth, and the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo next up in the order.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen, last year's victor in Spain on his team debut, was fifth fastest ahead of Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo. "It was OK but as I said, we can improve".

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Hamilton admitted he had enjoyed the challenge of driving in the changeable conditions, but acknowledged they made a lap more unpredictable - with "gusts of wind" having the potential to prove decisive. The team endured two very hard years after Honda were unable to supply a competitive power unit and 2017 was expected to be a major step forward; but the engine manufacturer is once again way off the pace.

But that will surely change, with the flow of upgrades set to speed up now that teams are closer to their factories, and Red Bull have some big chassis modifications in the pipeline and engine improvements still to come.

Hamilton's Mercedes team and Ferrari, spearheaded by four-time champion Vettel, arrived in Spain for the start of Formula One's European season with two victories each under their belt. "It's a good feeling for everyone when these upgrades work".

"This inter-team battle is a totally different situation that what we have seen over the last three years", Wolff said.

But Bottas, who joined Mercedes in January as replacement for 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, is the best bet to continue the streak of different winners in Spain. "We're expecting some various new parts.but we can't really focus too much on performance until we have solved our reliability issues".

Speaking before his home grand prix at the Circuit de Catalunya, Fernando Alonso issued his starkest warning yet that he may leave McLaren after his contract finishes at the end of this season.

Like Toro Rosso last year, Sauber have elected to run a year-old Ferrari power unit for this season, which is going to hamper their development.

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