Lewis Hamilton has resigned himself to a fight with "the guys behind" during the Bahrain Grand Prix, but hopes he can briefly cause "a little bit of trouble" for qualifying pace-setters Ferrari and Red Bull.
After a challenging pre-season period, Hamilton had to settle for fifth on the grid for the 2022 season opener, lapping more than half a second adrift of pole-sitter Charles Leclerc and 2021 title rival Max Verstappen.
Given the pace of the respective Ferrari and Red Bull packages, Hamilton knows he will enter Sunday's race without a realistic shot of the podium, admitting that Mercedes "can't really compete" as things stand.
Hamilton and Mercedes pin their hopes on strategy
Speaking after qualifying, Hamilton pointed to strategic variation as an area for Mercedes to make the most of, with drivers now given free choice over their starting tyres after the Q2 rule was dropped over the winter.
"The goal is obviously to finish every race, maximising the points," Hamilton told media, including RacingNews365.com, as he looked ahead to the 57-lap encounter.
"Realistically, we can't really compete pace-wise with the guys that are ahead of us, but we can fight the guys behind.
"However, we might have a slightly different strategy; if you look at the tyre situation, who knows whether that can come into play."
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Hamilton aims to "hold on" to Ferrari and Red Bull
Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez will share the second row of the grid behind their teammates, and just ahead of Hamilton, in Sakhir.
Hamilton is keen to try to stick with the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers for as long as possible, providing the W13's race-pace is "a little bit better than we anticipate".
"[Looking at Friday practice], this won't necessarily be the case, but every day is a bit different," Hamilton went on to comment.
"Maybe we can hold onto the guys ahead, just for a little while, and give them a little bit of trouble, but we definitely won't be quicker than any of the guys ahead of us."
Hamilton's new teammate, George Russell, will start the race back in ninth position, following a compromised final run in qualifying.
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