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Lewis Hamilton: Ferrari not operating at its usual level

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Hamilton, Leclerc make gains at first corner; Kvyat hits both McLaren's (1:54)

Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc make good starts down to the first corner in China, overtaking their respective teammates. (1:54)

SHANGHAI, China -- Lewis Hamilton believes Ferrari's inability to consistently operate at full potential is the reason why Mercedes has swept the opening three rounds of the season and already opened up a 57-point lead in the constructors' championship.

Mercedes scored its third consecutive one-two finish on Sunday at the Chinese Grand Prix with Hamilton leading home teammate Valtteri Bottas as Ferrari once again had to ponder team orders and ultimately made a mess of race strategy. Sebastian Vettel eventually finished third for his first podium of the season, but teammate Charles Leclerc lost out to Red Bull's Max Verstappen and finished the race back in fifth.

An ominous eight days of winter testing in Barcelona had many expecting big things from Ferrari in 2019, but so far the Scuderia has failed to live up to the hype.

At the season-opener in Australia they simply had no pace and finished over 50 seconds adrift of the Silver Arrows. It was a much improved performance in Bahrain with Ferrari securing a front row lockout, but an engine issue for Leclerc and a mid-race spin by Vettel allowed Mercedes to swoop in again.

"I think [Ferrari] has a good car. I've not really looked into detail why they weren't as quick [in China]. It just doesn't look like they're extracting their full potential on the weekends," Hamilton said after the race. "The execution doesn't look as faultless as they have shown in the past, but we all have ups and downs.

"[For us] there will be more improvements to come in the future, but I think we are operating at full potential. You have to put yourself in a position to get the wins, and we did that. We are really diligent on making sure that our processes are as accurate as can be."

The win put Hamilton into the lead of the drivers' championship, with a six-point lead over Bottas.