SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium — Moments after the end of Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton walked alongside the Ferrari of winning driver Sebastian Vettel and peered inside the car.
It was only a quick glance, but comments made by Hamilton shortly afterward revealed his concern at where Formula One rival Ferrari's extra speed on the straights is coming from.
"They have got a few trick things going on in the car," the British driver said in a trackside interview.
Asked later to clarify his comments, Hamilton was keen to distance himself from sounding suspicious, or suggesting Ferrari has infringed the rules in any way.
"I'm not saying it's anything illegal. Trick is just something that helps you bring that extra performance ... Please don't twist my words," Hamilton said. "We all have trick things on our cars. Trick is just a word for something special, I guess. I don't know what's on their car, so I couldn't say (if it is illegal or legal) either way."
Although Hamilton finished 12 seconds behind Vettel in second place, that margin was made larger by the fact Hamilton eased up in the closing laps because he knew he could not catch Vettel and was saving the engine for races ahead, starting next weekend at the Italian GP in Monza. Following that, Ferrari has another fast track well suited to it at Singapore.
"We might struggle to match them there (in Singapore)," said Hamilton, who leads Vettel by 17 points with eight races left. They are both chasing a fifth F1 title to move level with Argentine great Juan Manuel Fangio.
Heading into this weekend's race at Spa, nestled in the Ardennes forest, both Ferrari and Mercedes had brought upgrades to their cars. But Hamilton sounded confused why Mercedes is slower than Ferrari.
"We came here with a pretty good upgrade, and I mean generally every time we do bring an upgrade they bring a bigger one," Hamilton said. "We knew they were quicker on the straights. We've known for the last four races so they've had some things in their car to enable them to be quicker on the straights. We've got to work harder, I guess."
Although Hamilton seemed to distance himself from his initial "trick" comment, he continued to query where the power comes from.
"In both stints he had a little more pace than me," Hamilton said. "They deploy (more) power somehow than us. Not really sure how, but that's how they are."
Vettel, who was sat next to Hamilton in the post-race news conference, responded calmly when asked if his car has extra power.
"I hope so. I hope we have more power. That's what we're working for. We've been making progress the last two years (so that's) good news," the German driver said. "I wouldn't disagree in terms of power this year we are closer (than last year) ... It's good to see we are making progress."
Charlie Whiting, motorsport governing body FIA's race director, was asked about Hamilton's "trick" comment.
"I'm quite amused by it, really, because we know quite a lot about the Ferrari car and there's no way Lewis would know anything about the Ferrari car," Whiting said. "They're doing a good job at the moment and Mercedes have got to try and counter that, haven't they?"
Whiting does not see any problem with Ferrari's car.
He added: "If he (Hamilton) says they've got a few tricks going on in that car, well, clearly they have got some things going on in that car which are giving it performance which we're all aware of (in FIA) and obviously we're happy with."
Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff praised Ferrari's performance.
"Lewis was pretty powerless on lap one. He got swallowed up by Vettel on the straight," Wolff said. "(Ferrari) were deserved winners today. "
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Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire