SHANGHAI, China -- Lewis Hamilton believes Red Bull will be a serious threat at Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix after seeing the pace of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo over longer runs in Friday practice.
Hamilton finished the session with the fastest time -- 0.007s ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen -- as the top four cars were split by just over a tenth of a second over one lap. Verstappen was fifth fastest, 0.341s off Hamilton, as the Red Bull once again looked like the third fastest car during quailfying simulations.
However, over the course of two comparable nine-lap runs on ultra-soft tyres to simulate the first stint of the race, Verstappen was on average 0.1s faster than Hamilton.
"It was a good day and we got through all the laps that we needed and got some good feedback from the car," Hamilton said. "We've been progressing through all the sessions and we've got a good idea of where we are.
"It's quite straightforward here because all the tyres are quite similar in pace even though we have the double step between the ultra-soft and soft. It's the norm. Ferrari are still quite quick and I think Red Bull were really quick on the long run. But it's good to see all the times so close."
Even if Red Bull qualify outside the top four, Hamilton thinks the race will come down to tyre strategy as overtaking is relatively easy around the Shanghai International Circuit.
"I think this is the third easiest track to overtake, so it's a good track for racing. Obviously with the [front] tyres dropping off Turn 1 is a killer, Turn 8 is a killer and Turn 13 is a killer for the tyres, but positioning is everything.
"I just remember texting earlier in the week saying we really, really need to come with our A-game this week. That means every single individual in this team can't have an offer day. And if you are, don't come! We all need everyone to be on it all weekend because it's a joint effort."