Lewis Hamilton is expecting the development curve of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull to run at a similar rate during 2022, only extending the time that his team spend playing catch up on their rivals.
Mercedes are in a race to find the performance they need to fight Ferrari and Red Bull for race wins after starting the new season on the back foot.
The eight-time Constructors' World Champions have been wrestling with severe porpoising and multiple "gremlins" that have left them, at some circuits, more than a second slower than the fastest car.
Hamilton: It's not going to be easy to catch Ferrari and Red Bull
But Hamilton says he expects to see Ferrari and Red Bull get even quicker over the coming races as they perfect their own cars, only increasing the workload on his Mercedes team and intensifying their challenge.
"If you think, realistically, with the way how our sport goes, in terms of everyone's development, the top teams often develop at a similar pace, a similar rate. Will that be the case with this new car? Who knows?" said Hamilton, speaking to members of the media, including RacingNews365.com.
"I'm really, really hoping we can get in the fight soon. But with every bit of improvement we'll probably make, Ferrari and Red Bull will probably make a similar sort of step, so it's not going to be easy."
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Hamilton staying optimistic for the rest of the season
Hamilton, still hunting his eighth title, already finds himself 48 points behind Charles Leclerc in the World Championship standings.
Leclerc's current advantage over his nearest rival (34 points) is the biggest gap any driver has been able to build after just three rounds of an F1 season since 2016 (Nico Rosberg, 36 points).
"I prefer to stay optimistic. There are 20 races to go," continued Hamilton, who has won at least one race in every F1 season he has ever competed in.
"The gap is pretty big right now, but there's a long way to go."
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