Lewis Hamilton has conceded that he and his Mercedes team are “not fighting for the championship" after struggling in Saturday's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix sprint.
The seven-time world champion, who lost his title to Red Bull rival Max Verstappen last year, is struggling for pace after regulation changes put his Mercedes team on the back foot.
And after finishing 14th in the sprint, Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 bluntly: “We are obviously not fighting for the championship.
"But we’re fighting to understand the car and improve and progress through the year. That’s all we can hope for now.
“We stick together, we try to motivate everyone and this is the situation that we are faced with but everyone has their heads down, everyone is working as hard as they can.”
Hamilton – we need data to improve
Despite Hamilton’s dejection, Mercedes sat second in the championship after the opening three races after capitalising on the reliability issues of rivals Red Bull.
Despite a heated exchange between himself and team boss Toto Wolff in the paddock after qualifying on Friday, the British driver remains behind his team and feels that every lap gives the engineers more opportunity to fight back.
When asked what he can learn from the Imola sprint race he said: “We’ve got data.
"A lot of work is going on in the background but it is what it is, it’s what we have. Ultimately we haven’t got it right this year but everyone’s working as hard as they can to reverse it.”
Asked if it was a new experience for the team to be on the back foot, Hamilton responded defensively, stating: “The team have been through many, many bad years. Most of the people I am working with have been here 20 years.”