Motor racing-Hamilton says he will win again but could be some wait

Formula One F1 - Saudi Arabian Grand Prix - Jeddah Corniche Circuit, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - March 16, 2023 Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton ahead of the Grand Prix REUTERS/Rula Rouhana

(Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton has no doubt he will add to his record tally of 103 Formula One wins but cannot say how long he might have to wait.

The seven times world champion's last win was in Saudi Arabia in December 2021 and the Mercedes driver returned on Thursday with no great hope of success after a tough start to the season.

"I will win again," the 38-year-old Briton assured reporters in Jeddah ahead of race two of 23 on the calendar.

"It's just going to take some time.

Hamilton finished fifth in Bahrain on March 5 with team mate George Russell seventh while champions Red Bull won one-two with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

Mercedes had the fourth fastest car in Bahrain -- beaten by Red Bull, Aston Martin's Fernando Alonso and Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.

Hamilton said then that Mercedes were on the wrong track, and he had not been listened to, while team boss Toto Wolff agreed the car concept needed a rethink. Russell feared Red Bull could win every race.

Hamilton replied simply 'no' and 'yes' in Jeddah when asked whether he felt closer to the front than last year and whether the gap to Red Bull was greater.

"I think in the race they weren't pushing and so I think they are a lot quicker than they even seemed. We have it as them a second and a half faster in the race per lap. Something like that," he said.

"They will run away with it most likely this year unless Ferrari can stop them.

"At some point during the year we're hopeful we might be able to close the gap but at that point it will probably be too late in terms of fighting for a championship."

When Hamilton last won he was fighting to the wire with Verstappen -- a battle that ended controversially in Abu Dhabi with Verstappen taking the title after race director Michael Masi changed the safety car procedure late on.

"In 2021 when we were here, we were hoping to be fighting for another world championship. You never know what's up ahead," said Hamilton.

"There will be things that happen in all of our lives that we least expect but it's not how you fall, it's how you get up. It's how you deal with it, it's how you show up.

"It's how you continue to remain positive and tackle the issues that you are faced with. That's where my energy is going into and what every single person in the team is focused on."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)

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