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And the team are confident the seven-time world champion will stay put beyond this season in a bid to return them to race winners after a difficult start to the new F1 season.

Defending champions Red Bull sealed a second successive one-two of 2023 as Sergio Perez headed Max Verstappen at Sunday’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. At times, the RB19 was a staggering 1.2seconds quicker a lap than the rest of the field.

Despite the gulf between a car which Hamilton says is the quickest he has ever seen in Formula One and their own self-confessed development errors with the W14, Mercedes are adamant they will fight their way back to the top.

Hamilton cut a disconsolate figure for much of the weekend, admitting he could not get to grips with the Mercedes before a damage-limitation drive to fifth, a place behind team-mate George Russell, thanks in part to the timing of the safety car following Lance Stroll’s race exit.

Uphill battle: Lewis Hamilton has recorded back-to-back fifth-place finishes to start 2023

/ AFP via Getty Images

The 38-year-old’s contract expires at the end of the season and, with Mercedes facing another write-off season, there is conjecture that he could walk away.

But Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “Lewis is a fighter and so are we. If you’re a fighter, you stay in the fight and don’t throw the towel in. I think that’s how we all are in the team. That’s why I have no reason to believe he’s going to walk away from it.”

Wolff also warned that Hamilton’s struggles with the W14 – he is particularly battling with how the rear end of the car feels – were not about to be remedied in time for the next race in Australia in two weeks’ time. “That’s not something that can be cured quickly,” said the Austrian. “But we just need to get our act together.”

Hamilton hinted that the remainder of 2023 is in danger of fast becoming a Red Bull procession. Of the title favourites, he said: “I have definitely never seen a car so fast. We are still a long way off the Red Bull.”

Back to the drawing board: Toto Wolff admits problems with the W14 won’t be a quick fix

/ Getty Images

For Red Bull, it was another perfect weekend, Perez taking the win and Verstappen climbing up from starting in 15th place on the grid after his qualifying demise with drive shaft failure to finish runner-up.

Team boss Christian Horner hailed Perez’s “best-ever race” but refused to get carried away by the team’s current level of dominance in the sport.

“I think we showed the pace that we have,” he said. “At certain points, we were 1.2seconds clear of the field. That’s testimony to the hard work going on behind the scenes.

“But it’s a 23-race season and there’s 21 to go. In this business, we and our rivals will never give up. Things can change very quickly but we’re delighted to get this many points on the board this early.”

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