MANAMA : Mercedes are on the wrong track with their car and may not be even third fastest, seven-times Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton said after a difficult first Friday of practice in Bahrain.
The Briton was only eighth in the day’s more representative second session under floodlights while team mate George Russell was 13th.
Once-dominant Mercedes have resolved the ‘porpoising’ effect, or bouncing, that tormented them in 2022 but the car remains down on performance compared to world champions Red Bull and possibly also rivals Ferrari.
With Aston Martin setting the fastest lap of all with Fernando Alonso, Hamilton suggested Mercedes may have dropped as far as fourth in the pecking order.
“We found out we are a long way off,” the Briton told reporters.
“I thought that the Ferraris were second but on the long run we are quite closer to Ferrari, and it looks like Aston Martin are second and we are between third or fourth.
“We are either where we were last year, if not, a little bit further behind.
“It is not where anyone in the team wants to be or deserves to be because everyone works so hard, but we are just on the wrong track. We have to graft away and get ourselves on the right track, but right now we are long way off the guys in front.”
Hamilton said the team has made good progress last year but the gap had grown again.
“Do I believe we can close the gap at some stage? Yes, but I think it is quite hard with the concept we have,” he added.
Mercedes technical director Mike Elliott told reporters that changes would be made, particularly to the stand-out slimline sidepods.
“We’ve got a different bodywork coming, it won’t be the same as other people’s and it won’t be the same as what we’ve got,” he said.
Elliott said the drivers’ feedback was that the car was not handling as they wanted it to and lacked the right balance.
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