Lewis Hamilton: Mercedes driver laments ‘big problems’ as team struggle ahead of Bahrain GP



Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have 'big problems' after struggling in Friday's practice sessions ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have ‘big problems’ after struggling in Friday’s practice sessions ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have ‘big problems’ after struggling in Friday’s practice sessions ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton admitted there is no “short-term” fix for problems with Mercedes’ new car, while his team-mate George Russell suggested it is a case of “damage limitation” for them at this weekend’s season-opening Grand Prix in Bahrain.

In a continuation of the form shown in pre-season, Mercedes remained adrift of rivals Red Bull and Ferrari during both practice sessions on Friday at the Sakhir circuit, with Max Verstappen edging Charles Leclerc for the fastest time of the day in P2.

With less than 24 hours until the opening qualifying session of the season on Saturday, seven-time world champion Hamilton struck a downbeat figure after finishing P2 in ninth, more than a second behind Verstappen, and 0.6s behind his new Mercedes team-mate Russell, who was fourth.

Hamilton struggled throughout practice on Friday

Hamilton struggled throughout practice on Friday

For much of the pre-season many in the paddock have suspected that Mercedes, who have won the constructors title for the last eight seasons, have been holding back significant performance, but Hamilton insists it is a different situation to previous years.

“We’ve had small problems in the past, relatively compared to this year, we’ve had much smaller problems,” Hamilton said.

Hamilton continued to have difficulties with porpoising in his Mercedes during second practice in Bahrain.

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Hamilton continued to have difficulties with porpoising in his Mercedes during second practice in Bahrain.

Hamilton continued to have difficulties with porpoising in his Mercedes during second practice in Bahrain.

“We’re faced with much bigger problems this year. Everything we do to try to fix it doesn’t really change that, so it appears that it’s probably going to be a more longer-term fix, so nothing in the short term.

“You look at the Red Bulls, they’re a long, long way ahead. It’s in the region of eight to nine tenths ahead of us, and Ferrari is probably something like half-a-second.

“So we’re fighting and scrapping with whoever’s behind them. My mindset is still just trying to be the best I can be, just getting the most out of the car.

“As you can see we’re a long way off, we’re not bluffing, like people assumed we were. It is what it is, we’ll work as hard as we can through it and do what we can.”

Russell: Damage limitation in Bahrain

Despite having outperformed Hamilton by coming fourth – marginally behind the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz – Russell was also negative about his team’s chances going into the weekend.

“I think it’s clear we’re certainly not where we want to be. I think we made a bit of progress, but the pace is just not there at the moment. We need to go away with the data tonight and understand a bit why we’re both struggling with the car,” Russell said.

George Russell believes Mercedes are well behind their rivals heading into the Bahrain Grand Prix following the opening day of practice.

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George Russell believes Mercedes are well behind their rivals heading into the Bahrain Grand Prix following the opening day of practice.

George Russell believes Mercedes are well behind their rivals heading into the Bahrain Grand Prix following the opening day of practice.

“We’re a long way off the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari, even the likes of AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo are on our pace or quicker, so (we’ve) got a bit of work to do.

“We’re trying different things to change the performance, we’re throwing everything at it to unlock the potential that we think is there, but we’re just struggling to tap into at the moment. Everything we try is two steps forward one step back and there’s always a bit of a limitation. It’s going to take time. I think we all hoped we could solve it for this weekend but how things stand at the moment we aren’t in the fight and we’ve got work to do.

“There’s nothing drastic you can do overnight. We’ve still got a race weekend on our hands and got to make the best of the situation and maybe damage limitation, but we need to look into it.”

Hamilton: Balance and bouncing the problem, not brakes

A major issue for Mercedes throughout pre-season has been an inability to overcome ‘porpoising’ issues, which has caused their car to bounce severely in high-speed parts of the track.

‘Porpoising’ was an issue the entire grid faced at last month’s ‘shakedown’ in Barcelona when the all-new 2022 cars got their first outing, but while the majority of the grid have managed to reduce the effects, Mercedes continue to struggle.

Christian Horner says that Ferrari were very fast on the first day of practice in Bahrain and it's great to see them back competitive again.

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Christian Horner says that Ferrari were very fast on the first day of practice in Bahrain and it’s great to see them back competitive again.

Christian Horner says that Ferrari were very fast on the first day of practice in Bahrain and it’s great to see them back competitive again.

In addition to ‘porpoising’, Hamilton experienced brake issues during P2 which saw him lock up heavily on multiple occasions, but he insisted that was not a major concern.

“My front two discs, the left one was a much lower temperature and the right one would come up and I couldn’t get them balanced,” Hamilton said. “So when hitting the brakes, the right one’s working, which is pulling the steering down because the right one’s doing the work and the left one’s not, and then I was having that locking.

“The braking thing is something that we can fix so that’s not a concern, it’s more the balance and this bouncing that we have and the loss of downforce that we seem to have compared to others. That’s making it much, much harder out there.”

Sky F1's David Croft reviews the best of the action from Friday's practice sessions in Bahrain.

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Sky F1’s David Croft reviews the best of the action from Friday’s practice sessions in Bahrain.

Sky F1’s David Croft reviews the best of the action from Friday’s practice sessions in Bahrain.

The Sky Sports F1 team observed that Hamilton appeared to suffer from more severe ‘porpoising’ than Russell on Friday, leading to questions over his car setup.

It was notable that the Mercedes team were working on major changes to Hamilton’s setup in the minutes leading up to P2, with the driver only able to get into his car once the session had begun.

“I think that’s quite an interesting situation because if porpoising is the biggest issue they’re concerned about, they can’t have just found a solution for one car,” Sky Sports F1’s Naomi Schiff said.

“So it could be a case of the setup that Lewis is running on his car suits his driving style better, and possibly that the setup that they’ve got on George’s car suits his style better and that could be the difference in the porpoising.”

Bahrain GP live schedule on Sky Sports F1

Saturday, March 19
9.55am: F3 Sprint Race
11.45am: Bahrain GP Practice Three (session starts 12pm)
2pm: Bahrain GP Qualifying Build-up
3pm BAHRAIN GP QUALIFYING
4.35pm: F2 Sprint Race
5.35pm: Ted’s Qualifying Notebook

Sunday, March 20
8.55am: F3 Feature Race
10.35am: F2 Feature Race
1.30pm: Grand Prix Sunday: Bahrain
3pm: THE BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
5pm: Chequered Flag: Bahrain
6pm: Ted’s Notebook
7pm: Bahrain GP Highlights





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