BUDAPEST, Hungary -- Lewis Hamilton is keeping a close eye on Red Bull-Honda in the coming months to see if the team's recent form is a sign of things to come.
Hamilton and Mercedes have a comfortable lead in both championships, but Max Verstappen is the in-form driver on the grid and has stormed to two wins in the last three races. Verstappen, who finds himself 63 points down on the Englishman, has downplayed the prospect of dragging himself into the championship fight in the second half of the year.
Although Verstappen's win at the wild German Grand Prix could be seen as an anomaly, Red Bull looked strong at its home race in Austria. Hamilton thinks it would be wrong to ever write off the team which dominated the start of the current decade.
"I think what people need to remember is that it's a multi-championship-winning team," Hamilton said when probed about Red Bull's chances of dragging themselves back into a title fight. "They've always had a very good car. You've got Adrian Newey there, who's one of the best designers there is in the sport."
Hamilton is wary of Red Bull's recent progress and is curious to see how it fares after the summer break, when it hits two power-sensitive circuits in Belgium and Italy, something many figured the team would struggle with having switched to Honda power for this season.
"They had a slump with a little bit less power, then they had a period of time where they had a little bit less downforce than most people that definitely crept back up and started to utilise the car more, and both drivers are starting to put in good performances," Hamilton said. "So they're there, and it is clearly a very good car.
"We're in a period of time where it suits them. And also people need to remember that sometimes a car is better in other places. The car is not always the best through the whole season. Austria, the Red Bull was a better package for that circuit, it worked well in the temperatures and everything. Even compared to us with a good car and against Ferrari.
"It might be that way this weekend. I think Singapore will be strong for them. When we get to the longer places like Monza... it could be different this year, they have a new power unit, they're not lower than us on power. I think in some places they've got more power than us.
"It will be interesting to see how they go in those other places."
The subject of a championship challenge was put to Verstappen earlier in the weekend. His tone hasn't changed since winning in Germany, as he remains unconvinced it is possible.
To put his deficit into perspective, if he won the next two races and Hamilton failed to score a point, he would still be 13 points adrift. Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas is in second position, 41 points behind, a gap which many consider too big to be overturned without Hamilton suffering some major setbacks between now and the end of the season.
When asked about the title fight on Thursday, the Dutch driver said: "I don't think about that, just try to do the best job every weekend. With Mercedes having such a dominant start to the season, I think it's hard to catch them. We're going to try, but I'm not thinking about the championship."
With Mercedes seemingly out of reach, Verstappen's main focus is on how the Ferraris fare -- the Italian team is 41 points ahead of Red Bull in the championship.
"I'm not so sure [Red Bull is ahead], normally Ferrari would have taken pole at Hockenheim," he said. "We just seem to execute the weekend better than them and bring the results back. They are very fast, some tracks a bit faster than other tracks, with longer straights, they seem dominant.
"We'll see this weekend. It's still not very clear where we are. One thing is for sure, Mercedes is still ahead. That's what we have to target."