Lewis Hamilton, winner of a record 103 Formula One grands prix and seven world championships, said on Sunday he had never seen a car as quick as Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.
The Mercedes driver was overtaken by the double world champion as Verstappen powered from 15th on the grid to second in a Saudi Arabian Grand Prix won by Red Bull’s Mexican Sergio Perez.
It was Red Bull’s second one-two in two races this season and the only point they have missed so far was the bonus for fastest lap in Bahrain.
“I’ve definitely never seen a car so fast,” Hamilton told reporters after finishing fifth in Jeddah.
“When we were fast, we weren’t that fast.
“That’s the fastest car I think, I’ve seen, especially compared to the rest. I don’t know how or why but he came past me with serious speed.
“I didn’t even bother to block because there was a massive speed difference.”
Before the race, Hamilton reckoned Red Bull enjoyed a one-and-a-half second advantage per lap.
Hamilton’s teammate George Russell, who finished fourth and was promoted to third before being demoted back to fourth on review, said already in Bahrain that he could see Red Bull winning every race.
“You’ve got to give credit to what Red Bull have done,” the Briton said on Sunday.
“The gap they have to the rest of the field, I think is bigger than we’ve seen probably since Mercedes in 2014. It’s a serious, serious gap and I guess everybody needs to keep working harder to understand how to close that gap.
“But we know we didn’t make the right decisions over the winter and I think we can regain some of that performance quicker than you would do ordinarily. So everything’s not all lost.”
Russell further said Formula One needs to apply common sense in handing out penalties for infringements where visibility is a real problem for drivers.
Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, spoke after Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was handed a five- second penalty for lining up slightly out of position on the starting grid in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
The Spaniard was then handed a further 10-second post-race penalty, overturned on review, when the rear jack touched his stationary car before the five-second penalty had been fully served in the pits.
“I feel like some of these penalties have been a little bit too extreme,” Russell said.
“I think a little bit of common sense needs to be shown.”