RACE DEBRIEF

    The opening day of the 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix weekend wasn’t the best for champions Mercedes, as George Russell and Lewis Hamilton came away from practice with a stark assessment of the Silver Arrows’ pace.

    Russell finished fourth in both of the opening practice sessions of the season, as Pierre Gasly topped FP1 for AlphaTauri and reigning champion Max Verstappen set the pace in FP2 for Red Bull. Mercedes’ new recruit said his team were far off their rivals Red Bull and Ferrari – emphasising that his squad had their work cut out to catch up.

    FP2: Verstappen leads Ferraris in second Bahrain GP practice session

    “It’s all about lap time, and we’re certainly not where we want to be,” he said. “I think we’ve made a bit of progress solving some issues, but the pace just is not there at all at the moment so we need to really go over the data tonight to understand why we’re both struggling a little bit with the car.

    “And we’re a long way off the pace off Red Bull, Ferrari – even the likes of AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo are seemingly on our pace or even quicker. So, we’ve got a bit of work to do.”

    George Russell: Mercedes 'over a second slower' than rivals Red Bull and Ferrari

    That’s not to say Mercedes aren’t trying. Russell continued to explain that the Brackley/Brixworth squad are giving their all to defend their constructors’ championship this season and squeeze potential out of their W13.

    “We are truly throwing everything at [the car] at the moment to try and unlock the potential, which we think is there, but we’re just really struggling to tap into that at the moment. And everything we try is maybe one step forwards, two steps back, and there’s always a bit of a limitation – so it’s going to take time.

    “I think we hoped that we could’ve solved it for this weekend, but how things stand for the moment, we aren’t in the fight and we’ve got some work to do,” said Russell.

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    Team mate Hamilton, who was seventh then ninth in the respective sessions, said Mercedes hadn’t encountered problems of this scale in the past – echoing Russell’s comments that their pace and balance issues wouldn’t be fixed overnight.

    “We’re faced with much, much bigger problems this year,” said the seven-time champion. “And everything we do to try and fix it doesn’t really change that. It appears that it’s probably going to be a more longer term fix, so yes, nothing in the short term.”

    2022 Bahrain GP FP2: Hamilton complains about ‘bouncing’ Mercedes

    Hamilton also said he struggled with brake pulling issues in FP2, but brushed that off as a minor complaint. Looking ahead to FP3 and qualifying, he outlined his concerns.

    READ MORE: 'I will be more aggressive in 2022' vows Hamilton – as Verstappen says Mercedes have sandbagged during winter testing

    “The braking thing is something we can fix… it’s just more the balance and this bouncing that we have and the loss of downforce that we generally do seem to have compared to others – this is making it much, much harder out there.

    “And as you can see, we’re not bluffing like before, like people assume we were. It is what it is, we’ll work as hard as we can through it and do what we can.”

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