It was another sobering Formula One weekend for Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton cut a frustrated figure after his team’s deficiencies were laid bare once again in Saudi Arabia.
Red Bull completed its second one-two of the season, with Sergio Pérez this time winning from pole position and Max Verstappen flying through the field from 15th place after technical troubles in qualifying to finish second.
Hamilton once again finished way back in fifth place, one position behind Mercedes teammate George Russell, leading the seven-time champion to marvel at the car Red Bull has put together for the season.
“I have definitely never seen a car so fast,” Hamilton said after the race. “When we were fast, we were not that fast. It is the fastest car I have seen, especially compared to the rest.
“I don’t know how, but he [Verstappen] came past me with some serious speed and I didn’t even bother to block him because there was a massive speed difference.
“Everyone wants to see a close battle, but it is the way it is. It is not my problem, it is not my fault.”
Mercedes was recently the dominant force in F1, winning eight straight Constructors’ Championships between 2014 and 2021, but those years of success now seem like a distant memory.
Hamilton finished eighth in qualifying in Jeddah, nearly a second slower than Pérez on pole, with Russell fairing better in fourth but still almost six-tenths of a second down.
There were rumblings in preseason that Aston Martin had put together a competitive package and veteran Fernando Alonso has certainly delivered on the hype, finishing third in the first two races of the year.
With Red Bill so far ahead, Hamilton says Mercedes’ aim in the immediate future is to try and be competitive with Aston Martin.
“[We are] still a long, long way off Red Bull,” Hamilton said. “[It’s] definitely strange to see that Ferrari are behind us and it’s positive for us.
“It’s a different surface here and we don’t really understand why on this surface our car works one way and different on another.
“It will be up and down through the first three races. Hopefully, we can get some upgrades ASAP and try to close that gap to the Astons.”
Mercedes and Aston Martin both sit on 38 points in the Constructor Standings after two races, already 49 points behind the runaway Red Bull team, with Ferrari a further 12 points back.
The F1 season takes a break for a week before returning to Melbourne on April 2 for the Australian Grand Prix.