Bahrain Grand Prix: Mercedes will be underdogs to Ferrari, says Lewis Hamilton

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer in Bahrain
Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton
Two races, one win each. But Hamilton expects Ferrari to have the edge going into the Bahrain
Bahrain Grand Prix on the BBC
Dates: 14-16 Apr Venue: Bahrain International Circuit
Coverage: Practice, qualifying and race on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra (second practice online only). Live text commentary, leaderboard and imagery on BBC Sport website and app.

Lewis Hamilton says his Mercedes team are the "underdogs" in their battle with Ferrari heading into this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Briton shares the championship lead with Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel after a win and a second place apiece in the first two races of the season.

"Ferrari are going to be very, very strong here. They always have been," Hamilton said.

"It is going to be hard to keep with them, particularly in hot conditions."

Hamilton's concerns stem from tyre usage in the desert heat.

Compared to Ferrari, Mercedes struggled on the softer tyres used in the first race of the season in Australia, when the temperatures went up on race day.

The heat in Bahrain is much more intense than in Melbourne, even though the race starts at twilight and runs into darkness.

Hamilton said: "Ferrari have shown tremendous pace and I think in the first race, particularly in race trim, they're very, very quick - particularly on the hotter circuit.

"So, being that it is a hotter race here, I think the gap is going to be even closer.

"They are always generally the team that is lighter on tyres. We have a heavier car; they have a light, nimble car."

Fernando Alonso
McLaren's Fernando Alonso will race for the Honda-powered Andretti team at this year's Indianapolis 500

Reaction to Alonso at Indianapolis

Hamilton said it was "pretty cool" that his former team-mate and long-time rival Fernando Alonso was racing at the Indianapolis 500 this May instead of the Monaco Grand Prix.

But he underlined the challenge facing the two-time champion at the race, which is held at a super-speedway oval.

"It's a completely different category; it's a lot, lot different," Hamilton said.

"I've never driven one of those tracks, but it would be so much different for us to go and do that - the banking, how much you lift, how you use the tyres.

"It takes us guys forever through these test days to learn how to operate these tyres in the right window, so I would imagine it's not an easy thing to do in one go.

"So it's definitely a tall order in a short space of time, but you've got one of the best drivers in the world going there.

"For sure, he will be the best driver in the paddock, but he won't have the experience any of them have. So I think it will be a very exciting challenge for him."

Jim Clark made a successful transition from Formula 1 to the Indy 500 in 1965
Jim Clark made a successful transition from Formula 1 to the Indy 500, racing there five times and winning in 1965

Alonso said: "I need to adapt very quickly. It is very challenging and it is going to be very difficult but that is exciting as well."

The Spaniard has come up with the plan with McLaren and engine partner Honda because he has an ambition to become only the second man in history after Graham Hill to win the so-called triple crown of the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours.

The 35-year-old said winning this year was "not the target", but added: "At the same time, if I want to win the triple crown, one day I have to win it. So let's do it as soon as possible."

Alonso's contract with McLaren runs out this season and he said the team's desire to keep him for 2018 was not part of the discussions over Indianapolis.

"After the summer I will think and I will make a decision of what I will do next year, so nothing has changed after this discussion," he said.

"It's not that I'm thinking 'away from Formula 1'. I'm closer and closer to McLaren and to renew the contract so it's completely independent. After the summer I will see."

He added: "My commitment and my desire to win in F1 is bigger than any other challenge that I can find outside F1 so it's F1 or nothing at the moment."

Alonso is planning to visit the next IndyCar race in Alabama next weekend and have a seat fitting in the Andretti team's factory before flying to the Russian Grand Prix.

He will then spend some time on a simulator before the Spanish Grand Prix, after which he will fly direct to Indianapolis to start practice on the Monday.

Juan Pablo Montoya
Juan Pablo Montoya - also a former McLaren driver - has won the Indy500 race twice

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