Lewis Hamilton recognises he will have to continue to dig deep in his battle with Max Verstappen this season if he is to win a record-breaking eighth Formula 1 world title.
Hamilton was forced to withstand a late attack from Verstappen over the closing laps of Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix before registering his 96th career victory.
As Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff remarked post-race, the 36-year-old Briton had the "racing Gods" on his side when Verstappen was punished for an overtake that exceeded track limits before his tyres then lost pace in the dying stages.
Hamilton also knows he was "fortunate", and that what occurred at turn four "won't happen again", which is why he is aware he has to continue to be the differentiator.
"I’m pretty sure so we’ve got to do better, we’ve got to be smarter with how we navigate through our weekends," said Hamilton.
"We don’t have the fastest car at the moment but that’s all good for me, I don’t mind having to pull out extra in order to make the difference."
Unlike in past seasons when Red Bull has started a season slowly before mounting a late but ultimately fruitless challenge, on this occasion, it has the upper hand and a solid platform on which to mount a sustained bid to usurp Mercedes.
Asked to assess whether this season potentially has the makings of being the closest yet, Hamilton replied: "I don’t recall how close the other seasons were exactly.
"But this has got to have started off as one of the toughest, if not the… I think Red Bull’s pace is incredibly strong, as you could see.
"We can’t match them in qualifying right now. That’s a big step for us but obviously, I thought we could get closer within the race - but that was a little bit too close for my liking.
"The thing is, we just don’t know how much better they’ll be in other places that we go to - or how much worse, or how good.
"Maybe our car’s better in other places or maybe it’s worse, we’ll wait and find out. One thing’s for sure, we’ll work as hard as we can to improve it."
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