MONTE-CARLO, Monaco -- Lewis Hamilton believes it is clear Ferrari has chosen Sebastian Vettel as its No.1 driver after the German's strategy at the Monaco Grand Prix saw him beat Kimi Raikkonen to victory.
Raikkonen started from pole position and led for the first 34 laps of the race before receiving a call to pit for fresh tyres. The Finn returned to the track in backmarker traffic and lost time to Vettel, who Ferrari kept out on track at the front of the field in clear air. By the time Vettel pitted five laps later, he had built up a big enough lead over Raikkonen to switch tyres and resume the race ahead of his teammate.
On a weekend in which Hamilton struggled in qualifying and finished seventh in the race, Vettel extended his lead in the championship to 25 points as a result of his victory. The Mercedes driver believes that deficit is going to be even harder to overhaul if Ferrari is favouring Vettel.
"Well it's definitely not going to be easy," he said. "It's clear to me that Ferrari have chosen their No.1 driver, so they'll be pushing everything to make sure Sebastian is maximised on all of his weekends.
"In strategy, that [Vettel's victory] doesn't happen. The leading car, it is very hard for him to get jumped unless the team decide to favour the other car, so it's great for him [Vettel].
"We've definitely got to improve in understanding the car and do a better job. I am going to the factory this week. We are under no illusion, we are not perfect and we have still got areas to improve on.
"But we still believe we can win this thing. Twenty-five points is a long way away, it's hard to get just six points, but bit by bit we will try and chip away."
Hamilton received help from teammate Valtteri Bottas at the Bahrain Grand Prix when the Finn let him pass for second place, but Mercedes justified that by saying it was the team's best chance of winning. Hamilton says Mercedes is not yet at a point where it would help one driver over the other when they are running one-two.
"I haven't spoken to the team [about that] and I don't really plan to," he said. "Valtteri is doing a great job and I don't currently feel that we have to have a No.1.
"I think it's really important now that we collectively work as a team more than ever before, as we have been. Both of our work has to work collectively in the battle to beat Ferrari in the constructors'.
"But there might be some things along the way that position-wise, at some stage, might become valuable but who knows what is going to happen. I might be in the way, I might need to give Valtteri that upper hand. I really have no idea."