Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes is on the back foot after the last day of Bahrain pre-season testing, while Daniel Ricciardo The McLaren team is apparently on track for a strong 2021.
With less than a fortnight to go to the end of the season opener, Hamilton was only able to achieve the fifth fastest time, as Red Bull and Max Verstappen set the pace.
The result was renewed hope that Mercedes could finally face a tall order after seven years of domination.
When asked to determine where the problem lies, Hamilton’s response was revealing, indicating that there was unlikely to be a quick fix.
“Probably everywhere. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a struggle, but not fast enough,” he replied. “It just seems overall across the turn, there isn’t one particular point more than the other.
“[I’m] Luckily it’s over because I’ve never been a big fan of testing, I just love racing, but on the other hand, it could have been nice to have more days. This is probably the only time I would have asked for more days. But yeah, a lot of work to do, it’s gonna be tough. “
His Hamilton teammate Valtteri Bottas admitted this weekend that the car was not to his liking, despite the best time on day two.
“I would say one of the big issues with the car is the rear,” Bottas said.
“It’s pretty crisp and it’s pretty ruthless and that, with the new tires feeling pretty slip sensitive – it’s not that easy. We try to calm the car down a bit and that way try to get a little more rhythm. “
World titles, however, are not awarded in March, otherwise Ferrari would likely have been the dominant team for the past decade. In 2018, for example, the Scuderia were more than half a second ahead of their rivals in practice, only for Mercedes and Hamilton to comfortably win the respective championships.
Mercedes track engineering director Andrew Shovlin said the team was particularly concerned about its lack of long-term pace compared to Red Bull.
He acknowledged that this was not the first time Mercedes has been behind rivals in pre-season testing, but noted this year was different, given the short delay before the first race.
One figure that will cause concern in the Mercedes camp is the total number of laps completed over the three days, with Hamilton and Bottas at the bottom of the list, with a total of 304 laps.
Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren team had three solid days, with the general consensus pointing to the fact that they had the third fastest car, especially in the qualifying phase, behind only Red Bull and Mercedes.
“[McLaren] sit really well, ”Sky Sports commentator Ted Kravitz said.
“They don’t think they’re faster than Red Bull or Mercedes, but they think they’re closer – much closer – than in previous seasons.”
While Ricciardo’s third day was over a second on Verstappen’s pace, the Australian’s time was set on harder compound tires, indicating that there is more pace to come.
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