Lewis Hamilton says it is too early to say his world championship chances are dwindling.
That is despite the fact the points gap to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg could blow out to 42 points in China.
Briton Hamilton, the reigning back-to-back champion, has had an horror weekend so far in Shanghai, following a gearbox change and then an engine problem in qualifying, leaving him dead last for the start.
German Rosberg has said he expects Hamilton to scythe through the field, but the triple world champion doesn’t think he can even target the podium.
“The Red Bulls are quick, there’s the two Ferraris and there’s Nico, so just getting points is my goal,” said Hamilton.
“There’s been no luck whatsoever this weekend, but there’s no need to be too stressed about it,” he added. “All I can do is try to shape the future. It isn’t over until it’s over.”
It is that upbeat attitude, obvious throughout 2016 so far and a surprise to many, that left team boss Toto Wolff in awe of Hamilton on Saturday.
“The development I’ve seen in him over the past three years as a person has been mind-blowing,” he said. “He has won two championships and found himself as a person.”
Hamilton agreed: “My mentality is different. I have a relaxed vibe.
“But that doesn’t mean I’m happy. I’m fighting for the world championship and Nico’s walking away with it. But there’s a long, long way to go.”
For the moment, though, it is a dream scenario for Rosberg, who could win his sixth consecutive grand prix on Sunday. But, despite losing the last two championships to Hamilton, he insists he actually wanted a wheel-to-wheel fight in China.
“I was looking forward to the fight with Lewis but unfortunately it didn’t happen,” said the German. “But anyway, I’m not thinking about good or bad luck at this stage of the season. It’s too early and things can swing around very fast.”