Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1's new regulations for the 2021 season have been made to cut the gap between Mercedes and their rivals. The 36-year-old, who starts from second place for Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix behind Max Verstappen, admits he feels Mercedes have been targeted with this year's rule changes.
Restrictions to the rear floor of the cars have been made for this season to cut downforce levels and slow the cars down. Pirelli have also introduced a new tyre structure which has increased the weight of the tyres by 3kg.
“I mean, it’s no secret that the changes, of course they have been done to peg us back," said Hamilton.
Hamilton then compared the changes to the ban on qualifying engine modes which was introduced in the middle of the 2020 season.
“We had the changes, of course, last year to our engine to do the same thing," said Hamilton.
"But that’s okay, we love a challenge and we don’t look down on these things. We just work hard to do the best we can, and that’s what we will do.”
Hamilton was over three tenths slower than pole sitter Verstappen but says the gap was "definitely closer than expected."
“I think this is a really good step forward for us coming this weekend,” added Hamilton.
“I think we thought it was double the gap that you see today and so that’s really down to some really fantastic work from the men and women back at the factory.”
The Brit also thinks Verstappen and Red Bull will retain their pace advantage over the Mercedes although gusty conditions could play a role in Sunday's 57 lap race.
“That’s just from the information that I’ve been given and from what I can see," continued Hamilton.
“Our balance wasn’t really that spectacular, but it wasn’t the worst, driving. It was just if you work things out, it looked like it was a couple of tenths difference between us.
"But we’ll see, it definitely didn’t look terrible and it was a lot better than what I thought was going to be in testing.
"I can’t really tell you what we’re struggling with, I don’t want to tell you what our problem is.”