Mercedes’ engineers believe Ferrari have drawn level with Mercedes in terms of outright power in qualifying, according to Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton outqualified the Ferraris by more than 0.6s at the opening round in Australia, leading to speculation around Mercedes engine settings. But Hamilton says the data Mercedes’ engineers gathered from the first race puts the Ferrari power output at the same level as their own engine.

“They said in qualifying, they think power-wise we are equal to them, so they have made a really big improvement,” Hamilton said. “They feel in the race, we might have a slight edge on them. But I think it’s hard to say from one race.

“They [Ferrari] had a different run profile to us in the race, they were doing something different fuelling wise compared to us. It’s difficult. You’ll get a much better idea of it in the coming races.”

Despite holding a pace advantage in Australia, Hamilton lost the lead to Sebastian Vettel under a Virtual Safety Car period and finished second. The slip-up was traced to an error in Mercedes’ offline software, which lulled the pit wall into a false sense of security and meant Hamilton did not respond to the threat from Vettel when he should have.

The reigning champion said he discussed the issue with his engineers following the race and is confident it won’t happen again.

“When you started first and fell back to second that’s definitely not as good a feeling. You definitely don’t want to be moving backwards so that was definitely difficult for us all. Everyone in the team felt the same pain and we all sat together in the airport lounge and had a drink together and we were incredibly unified.

“We all felt the same pain and for sure some individuals have had more sleepless nights than others maybe, but ultimately we come here feeling strong and positive with a good direction over how to move forward. That’s why this is such a great team even with that issue that we had we still got good points and we are still there in the fight. Whatever the case I feel that we are prepared to push through whatever these issues we are faced with and move forward.”

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