Lewis Hamilton has rejected title rival Sebastian Vettel’s claim the Mercedes team was sandbagging in practice for the Russian Grand Prix.
Friday practice pace setter and championship leader Sebastian Vettel suggested that Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team were “sandbagging” on Friday in a thoughtful ploy not to give away their true pace.
“I don’t know why they would suggest that,” Hamilton said. “That is just Sebastian trying to blow smoke our way. Those guys are very quick.
“If we get our tyres working we can get closer and the gap is still very, very close, but we are just not as quick as we need to be.”
Hamilton believes it is advantage Vettel for the Russian GP after he finished a distant fourth behind his nearest title challenger in practice on Friday.
The German set a best lap of 1 minute and 34.120 seconds ahead of his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, while the triple-time world champion was only fourth, a distant 0.709 seconds adrift of Vettel’s best time.
“The Ferraris are definitely the quickest as they have been all year so far,” Hamilton added.
“We will work hard this evening to see if we can pick up some time. Their pace does not surprise me because we are struggling getting these tyres up to temperature.
“We are not the quickest, and of course I want to be, but rather than get concerned about it I just put my energy towards trying to figure out how we can improve.”
Valtteri Bottas admitted “we have work to do and Ferrari was stronger today than us”, after joking he hoped Mercedes was sandbagging after all.
He added: “If we are on top of them tomorrow, we’ve done a very good job.”