Hamilton and Red Bull mind games brewing

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton during the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 27, 2011 in Melbourne, Australia.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton on the podiumin Melbourne

Mar.29 (GMM) Lewis Hamilton has stated that he thinks Nigel Mansell is a better driver than reigning champion and 2011 title leader Sebastian Vettel and has started to stir up doubts about the legality of Red Bull‘s front wing.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren in parc ferme.  Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 27 March 2011.

Drinks company beat supercar manufacturer in season opening Australian Grand Prix

After recently saying Vettel’s currently dominant team Red Bull is “just a drinks company”, McLaren driver Hamilton has now admitted he rates his nemesis Fernando Alonso higher.

“I see him (Alonso) as my Prost … if you were to say ‘choose a driver’ I would clearly choose Ayrton (Senna). And maybe I would put him as Prost,” Hamilton told British newspapers.

But what about Vettel, who has taken Hamilton’s record as the youngest ever world champion and last weekend easily won the 2011 opener from pole?

“I don’t think so,” the 26-year-old is quoted by the Guardian.

Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7 takes the chequered flag at the end of the race. Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday 27 March 2011.

Race winner Sebastian Vettel crosses the finish line in Melbourne

“If he continues to have a car like he does now then, maybe, but I think when we get equal pace then we will see some serious racing. Maybe he (Vettel) is the new Mansell? Not that I would rate him like I do Mansell,” added Hamilton.

The salvos were also firing from the other direction, after Hamilton said he was confident about catching Red Bull this year because McLaren is the better team at car development.

“Of course he would say that, otherwise he might as well not turn up for the next race,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner is quoted as saying by L’Equipe.

“But does he really believe it? McLaren has made great progress recently, it’s a great team and they were always good at developing their car during a season.

Red Bull Racing RB7 front wing. Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Saturday 26 March 2011.

Red Bull Racing RB7 front end being worked on in Melbourne

“But we were better than them in this area last year and we are determined to do the same again,” added Horner.

Meanwhile Hamilton has stirred up what could  be a repeat of last year’s flexible front wing saga.

As Red Bull dominated the pace with its ultimately title-winning RB6 in 2010, rivals pushed for better scrutineering checks after noticing the extremities of the front wing bending towards the track.

That phenomena was spotted again in Melbourne last weekend, as were Red Bull’s mechanics repairing the endplates after they bottomed on the asphalt and kerbs.

“Have you seen Vettel’s front wing?” Bild newspaper in Germany quotes  Hamilton – who estimated the performance advantage at half a second – as saying.

“Either we close the loophole or everyone will copy it,” the McLaren driver reportedly added.

Red Bull’s motor sport consultant Helmut Marko replied: “It was the same thing last year. They try it over and over, but we pass the tests every time.”