“We are in the best shape we can possibly be in considering that we only had three days of testing. There’s been a huge amount of analysis: the engineers, the guys back at the factory, there’s a huge amount of data from everyone to try and understand, churn the numbers and make improvements in that short period. But I think we come here positive.
“We’ve tried to understand in terms of quantifying how big or small an issue we may or may not have. I think we’re in the early phases, but I know that everyone on the ground here, all the engineers and also the aerodynamicists in particular back at the factory have been working around the clock to rectify any abnormal things that happened with the new car because of the new regulation shifts.”
The suggestion is that the low-rake Mercedes has been more adversely affected by the cut in the floor area than the shorter high-rake Red Bull. Certainly during testing it was visible how much more balanced and grippy Verstappen’s car was than the Merc. It was as if the traits of the two cars had been inverted from last year when the Red Bull was a quick but visibly more demanding drive than the Mercedes.
Add to that the major progress Honda has made with what is virtually an all-new power unit and hopes that the season will be less one-sided than last year do seem to have some basis of reason.
A full-on duel between Hamilton and Verstappen is of course what F1 has been yearning for way too long. It seems it may be something Hamilton as just as excited about. An easy cruise to an eighth title might even be something that would nudge him towards retirement more than would a flat-out battle with the pretender to his throne.
“In the current position, I don’t feel like this is the end,” he said. “Of course, we’ve got these changes that are happening next year, which are exciting. I think this looks like it could be the most exciting season yet. I don’t feel like I’m at the end, but the next eight months or so, I’ll find out whether I’m ready to stop or not. I don’t think I will personally, but you never know.”