Hamilton says Mercedes has long way to go before challenging Red Bull, Ferrari

Sydney: Despite a surprisingly strong finish at the Australia Grand Prix, racer Lewis Hamilton believes his new team Mercedes isn`t ready to challenge rivals Red Bull and Ferrari for the overall Formula One title, and that it still has a long way to go.

The 28-year-old, who switched from McLaren to join a team which finished a distant fifth in the constructors` championship last year, said they are not title contenders at the moment, and are not at the forefront of the pack, leading and showing blistering times.

The 2008 champion said he expects further progress at this week`s Malaysian Grand Prix. Team Principal Ross Brawn agreed, noting the team ‘underperformed’ in Melbourne and struggled to get the balance of the car right. It was further hurt when Hamilton`s teammate Nico Rosberg retired on the 27th lap due to an electrical failure.

Such a prognosis may have once depressed Hamilton, who won one F1 title with McLaren but increasingly expressed his frustration with the team after having several races ruined by mechanical problems or crew mistakes.

Hamilton however, strikes a more patient tone these days, saying Mercedes` goal of competing at the top has to be viewed in terms of years rather than months.

Hamilton said he is now in the ‘happiest place’ and credits his new attitude with the shift to Mercedes.