Lewis Hamilton has admitted the Mercedes W15’s chances of winning a race in F1 2024 are “a little but further down the road” after Max Verstappen’s “insane” pace in Austrian Grand Prix qualifying.

Following a muted start to the F1 2024 season, Mercedes have improved considerably over recent weeks with Hamilton and team-mate George Russell registering podium finishes in Spain and Canada respectively.

Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes W15 win ‘a little bit further down the road’

Additional reporting by Thomas Maher

The car’s flashes of pace has raised hopes that Mercedes could end their extended wait for a race victory, having won just once since the F1 2022 regulations were introduced.

Hamilton, who announced earlier this year that he will end his long and successful association with Mercedes at the end of F1 2024 to join Ferrari on a multi-year contract, remains without a win since the penultimate race of the 2021 campaign in Saudi Arabia.

That came just seven days before he was dethroned in highly controversial circumstances by Verstappen at the Abu Dhabi season finale.

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Despite the team’s growing confidence, Hamilton could only qualify fifth – 0.598 seconds slower than polesitter Verstappen – for Sunday’s Austrian GP, with Russell marginally quicker to claim third on the grid.

Speaking to media including PlanetF1.com after the session, Hamilton acknowledged that the significant deficit to Verstappen means Mercedes are not set for an imminent return to winning ways despite the car’s improved form.

He said: “We just don’t have enough downforce. That’s all we got.

“I don’t know the answer. Honestly, I don’t know the answer.

“If I could take a piece of downforce and chuck it on the back, I would, but that’s not how it goes. We’re just going to continue to work on improvement.

“But the notion of us potentially winning a race this year, when you get a half-a-second gap like today, makes it a little bit further down the road, but we’ve got to keep pushing.”

Hamilton highlighted performance in the high-speed corners as an area where Mercedes are lacking “a lot” compared to Red Bull, revealing Verstappen is as much as 13 kilometres per hour quicker than the W15 in the faster turns.

He added: “We’re down a lot in the high speed compared to Max. A lot.

“It’s insane how much faster they are in the high speed. I think they’re about 12-13k faster, which is huge.”

Hamilton’s latest qualifying defeat means Russell now leads 9-2 in the Mercedes’ head-to-head qualifying battle for F1 2024, with Hamilton starting ahead of his team-mate just twice in Miami and Barcelona.

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