After uncertainty over Mercedes’ competitive status following testing, Hamilton and team-mate George Russell endured a difficult opening day of practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton finished the most representative second practice in 10th place, one ahead of Russell.
But with the new W14 underperforming against pacesetters Aston Martin and Red Bull, Hamilton was in dire straits on Friday night.
Asked what he had discovered on the track, Hamilton said: “We found out we’re a long way off.
“We knew that a little bit in testing, but it’s a big gap. I’m trying my best out there.”
Hamilton said Mercedes was losing time to its rivals in both the high- and low-speed corners, as he reckoned Red Bull’s race pace was putting them a second per lap down the road.
After a difficult start to last season as Mercedes struggled with the W13, Hamilton believes things had the potential to be even worse this year as he suggested the team had been leapfrogged by Aston Martin.
“I thought Ferrari was second,” he said. “But I think in the long term, we’re very close to Ferrari and it looks like Aston was second.
“We’re sort of between third and fourth. So we are kind of where we were last year or if not a little further back.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
“It’s tough for everybody. And I really don’t think anybody on the team wants to be here, and I certainly don’t think everybody deserves to be, because everybody continues to work so hard and they’re really so courageous and thoughtful in the process. .
“We’re on the wrong track. So we have to keep grafting and find a way to get on the right track. But right now, we’re a long way from the guys in front.”
And while Hamilton fully understood the progress Mercedes were able to make last year as they tackled their porpoise car, he suggested the current pace was the maximum from their current concept car.
“I have to be optimistic,” he said. “I think there was good progress last year, but the gap wasn’t as big as it is now.
“Do I think we can close the gap at some stage? Yes, but I think it’s quite difficult with the idea we have.”
Hamilton’s concerns about the state of his car mean he is not optimistic he will be able to make significant progress in the remainder of the Bahrain GP weekend.
“I think I’ve got the car to the best place I can get it, set-up-wise,” he said. “We’re still going to adjust little bits here and there. But it’s going to be little bits here and there, which are milliseconds. It’s not going to close the split second.
“But for all that, we’re just keeping our heads down tonight and we’re going to look at the data. We’re going to keep working and try to make progress tomorrow, but we’ve got to try to find out if there’s a way we can perform overnight.”