Hamilton expects 'easy cruise win' for Verstappen

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Lewis Hamilton says he expects poleman Max Verstappen to take an "easy cruise win" in Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix, a race Mercedes will approach in damage limitation mode.

Hamilton qualified fourth for this weekend's second round of racing at the Red Bull Ring, just ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas, but 0.294s off Verstappen's pole lap.

Contrary to expectations, Mercedes didn't succeed in making inroads into Red Bull's lead in between races at Spielberg week-over-week.

"It’s even more of a challenge than it already was last week and we’ve continued to lack pace," explained the seven-time world champion who extended on Friday evening his partnership with Mercedes until the end of 2023.

"We tried everything to get more out of the car and it’s just the underlying pace that is where we are at, at the moment.

"We’ve got to really find performance in the following races."

Asked where he was conceding time to Verstappen, Hamilton admitted he was missing "just a little bit everywhere", and believed his chances of pulling off a win on merit were remote.

"In terms of pure pace it’s definitely out of the question," he said.

"They’ve [Red Bull] got three-tenths on us, I think they’ve improved their car again this weekend. I would say that’s an easy cruise win for Max.

"I think for us, [the target is] to try and see if we can get ahead of at least Perez and try to limit the damage this weekend."

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