Lewis Hamilton is playing down suggestions from rivals that he and Mercedes will be front-runners in the 2013 Formula 1 season.
Despite some other top drivers suggesting it would be wrong to discount Hamilton as a title threat despite his move to the hitherto troubled Mercedes team, Hamilton is standing by his belief that he is unlikely to even win a race this season. Asked between test sessions in Barcelona whether his skepticism meant he rated his victory chances as impossible or merely unlikely, Hamilton replied: "It doesn't mean it's impossible, but I think people are talking us up at the moment.
"[Sebastian] Vettel and maybe Fernando [Alonso] were saying I'm maybe going to be competing for the World Championship, but I really don't see that happening at the moment. Of course that's our goal, but you've got to remember the car was over a second off, sometimes two seconds off, last year and we've not caught a second up. And other teams will have put a second on over the winter. So we've not gained three seconds, that's a fact.
"Hopefully by the end of the year, that's our goal [to be capable of winning], but definitely not at the beginning."
Hamilton believes Mercedes' W04 currently holds a respectable position just behind the front-runners.
"It's a work in progress. We have stuff to add to it, stuff to work on, things that are better than what I have experienced, things that are not as good," he said. "Downforce is not great but we have some updates. It's probably not fast enough to be the quickest but it's not slow, that's for sure."
He remains adamant that Mercedes will thrive in the long term as recent changes take effect.
"I don't think there should be a reason not to succeed," Hamilton said. "I think sometimes people lose their way and it takes a group of people to try and put the train back on its tracks. We've got lots of great people here who I think have been doing that and we're now rolling in the right direction."