Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes' main rivals at Ferrari and Red Bull have it easier playing catch up than his team does at trying to remain on top.
This season has seen the German manufacturer's period of domination ended with just a single win over the first four races with a fortunate win for the current world champion in Baku making up for the disappointing loss in Australia.
However, at times, Mercedes have appeared to have the third best car on the grid but the Briton sees that as part of the relative progression made over the winter.
“I think the others have stepped up. We’ve made a step forward by they’ve made a bigger leap and all the other teams are a lot closer up. It’s always easier to catch up,” he claimed.
Now perhaps with the Brackley-based team in that position for the first time since 2013, Hamilton does remain confident Mercedes can adapt to their new reality.
That is what this team is usually always able to do,” the 34-year-old stated.
"I believe we can battle it out with these guys. If we are able to pull through and deliver as we have in previous years, it will be the biggest achievement the team will have accomplished.”
The four-time champion is also facing a larger threat from within, with Valtteri Bottas unfortunate not to win the last two races and potentially being a little too conservative in Bahrain before that.
This past weekend, Bottas was given the prestigious Lorenzo Bandini award and afterwards, would also comment on Mercedes' tougher competition in 2018.
“This is F1, it is competitive and when the regulations stay more or less the same, it is always going to get tighter,” he said. “There are three big teams now which we expected to be close.
“What we need to do is keep looking into the fine details, and learning even little bits, even one-hundredth of a second at a time.
“If we can find those regularly, from all the areas – especially from our weaknesses – that is going to bring us far.”
Looking ahead to this weekend's Spanish GP though, the Finn is also eager to use the frustration of his loss in Baku due to a puncture to respond.
“I always find that disappointment can be your best opportunity to be stronger if you take it the right way," he said.
“So I am planning to be even stronger next weekend and for the rest of the year.”
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