Austrian F1 Grand Prix: Ferrari and Red Bull could catch us up, says Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton

World Champion admits: 'This could be where we flatten out'

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Lewis Hamilton believes the Austrian Grand Prix could be his toughest of the season, with opposition not just from his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who won last year, but Ferrari and Williams too.

Insiders at Mercedes suggest this could be the race at which the true gap between themselves and Ferrari becomes apparent. The Italian team introduced a major aerodynamic upgrade in Barcelona in May, and on the engine in Canada last time out. But so far the results have been inconclusive.

“This could be where we flatten out,” Hamilton admitted. “Williams and Ferrari could be a lot closer; both have been making a lot of improvements. Sebastian [Vettel], in particular, will be on it here.”

Ferrari’s Vettel was not so confident, saying: “If everything goes as normal we should be a little bit further up this weekend. But we have to be realistic; to challenge Mercedes we know we need a flawless weekend and we have to hope for them to have a little bit of a struggle too. In normal circumstances, it’s quite difficult to beat them. It’s still quite a big gap.”

Reliability changes have enabled the Silver Arrows to liberate more power than they had been able to run before the Canada GP. Others have not been so lucky. Both McLaren Honda and Red Bull are likely to receive grid place penalties for using more than the four engines each driver is allowed over the course of a season because of poor reliability.