Red Bull chief Christian Horner backs Hamilton in title bid amid Mercedes woes

Lewis Hamilton's belief that he is not in the title picture are not shared by Red Bull chief Christian Horner, who claims he will still be a 'factor' this season.

A woeful start to the season has seen the Mercedes driver sit just sixth in the standings, with a pointless finish at Imola on Sunday meaning he already has a 58-point deficit to early pacesetter Charles Leclerc. It led to Hamilton conceding he's 'obviously' not in the title picture.

Hamilton's issues with the Mercedes car have come despite better form from teammate George Russell, who has finished in the top five in each of his four races this season and come in ahead of Hamilton for the past three weekends in a row.

It results in Hamilton's chances of securing what would be a record-breaking eighth world title looking very slim, but Red Bull's team principal Horner has suggested the Brit isn't entirely out of the running just yet and could pose a threat.

He said: "He obviously had a horrible weekend but he is still an eight-time world champion… seven-time! I forgot Nico Rosberg won. He hasn't forgotten how to drive in the last four races so at some point they will sort their issues out and he will become a factor but obviously, the young guys are doing a great job."

To make matters worse for Hamilton at the weekend, the veteran driver also suffered the embarrassment of being lapped by rival Max Verstappen, and Horner played down the importance of that particular event.

"I think Lewis didn't have a great weekend but we are very much focused on our race and trying to extract the maximum points. It was obviously one of those things. At that point, we were looking at the clouds, was the rain going to come in the last part of the race or not, we were more focused on that."

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Hamilton's experience could prove to be vital in Mercedes' resurgence over the coming weeks, with a record 103 race victories, and will be encouraged by development changes that are expected to be implemented by the team in the coming weeks.

The key to improving will be to solve the car's 'porpoising' issues, with Mercedes among the teams struggling with violent bouncing on the track – although the team's rivals have managed to retain their speed despite these issues.

Formula One heads to Miami for the next date on the calendar, the maiden Grand Prix for the American venue, before the first double-header of the season later in May at Barcelona and Monaco.

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