|© AP Photo/Luca Bruno
Although Lewis Hamilton qualified in second place for the Monaco Grand Prix, the former world champion still feels some way off being able to compete for victory in Sunday's race.
Hamilton has 21 wins to his name -- compared to just one for his new teammate Nico Rosberg -- but the Briton has been beaten by the German in qualifying for three consecutive races.
"My pace was sucking all weekend and just struggling with the car... This weekend was one of the toughest for me so far," Hamilton said after finishing behind Rosberg in qualifying. "It's a general feeling to do with me. It's difficult to really explain it. I've just not been on it all weekend. It's not through not being focused or not being centred or anything like that, it's just (feeling) uncomfortable in the car."
Hamilton's season started brightly enough, with two third-place finishes in the first three races, but he finished 12th in Barcelona two weeks ago and was off the pace before that in Bahrain, where he crossed the line in fifth spot.
In Barcelona two weeks ago, the 28-year-old driver started from second on the grid only to roll in a crushing full lap behind race winner Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.
"Particularly in the last couple (of races) I did pretty poor," Hamilton said. "It's been like (this) since the first race. Even winter testing I was struggling."
Hamilton, who won the title in 2008, acknowledges that the pre-season switch from McLaren to Mercedes has taken him out of his comfort zone more than he expected.
"The set up I have on the car, in terms of brake, cylinders, is a lot different obviously to what I experienced before where I was very, very comfortable. I'd been used to it and it was always the same," he said. "I had 100 percent confidence in the car (at McLaren), particularly this track where you need 100 percent confidence in the car."
Hamilton adds that his confidence has been slightly affected, such as being unsure of when to brake, and that he still can't get enough temperature in the tyres. Mercedes' shortcomings have been exposed in races, and what the car has in speed it lacks in durability.
"It worked well in the past, it's just that I've been struggling with getting that confidence," Hamilton said.
It's not that Hamilton has never been beaten by a teammate in qualifying, but in the past he raced alongside former world champions -- such as Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Rosberg has never finished higher than seventh overall.
"I've been very fortunate to have had lots of experiences in the past, obviously when I was with Fernando, with Jenson," Hamilton said. "I've had plenty of times where I was out-qualified. It doesn't make me doubt my abilities or anything like that, just got to work harder."
Rosberg has a best of fourth place this season at the Malaysian GP, so getting ahead of Hamilton in qualifying almost feels like a victory in itself.
"I know that Lewis is one of the best out there, so it was going to be a massive challenge to beat him around here," Rosberg said. "That's why I'm all the more happy I just managed to edge him out."