'We are a long way off' – Mercedes drivers left frustrated after first practice sessions in Bahrain
Lewis Hamilton admitted that Mercedes were "a long way off" rivals Red Bull after the first day of running in Bahrain – while team mate George Russell called on his team to find “more lap time” ahead of Sunday’s season opener.
Hamilton was 10th in the opening practice session in Bahrain, and followed it up by finishing eighth quickest as temperatures dropped under the lights in FP2 – where conditions are more reflective of those found in qualifying and the race.
After jumping out of the W14 cockpit on Friday evening, Hamilton said: “We found out we are a long way off. We kind of knew that a little bit in the test, but it’s a big gap.
"I’m trying everything I can out there [but looking to] Red Bull, just looking at the long runs they are a second a half faster. So, we’ve got a lot to work on.
“I think I got the car to the best place I can get. Set-up-wise we can continue to tweak a little here and there, but it’s going to be small bits here and there, which is milliseconds.
“It’s not going to be the closing of the gap of a second [to Red Bull]. Nonetheless we’ll just keep our head down tonight, we’ll go through the data, continue to work, and try and progress tomorrow. But we’ve got to try and find out if there is any way we can find performance overnight.
“Do I believe we can close the gap at some stage? Yes. But I think it’s quite hard with the concept we have.”
Hamilton remarked on the pace of Ferrari and Aston Martin, whose driver Fernando Alonso led FP2 on Friday night.
“I thought Ferrari were second, but I think on the long runs we are quite close to Ferrari, It looks like the Aston is second and we are between third and fourth, so we are kind of where we were last year, if not a little behind. But we are just on the wrong track, and so we’ve got to just continue to graft away, and get ourselves on the right track. But right now, we’re long way off the guys at the front.”
Team mate Russell also agreed with Hamilton’s sentiments on Aston Martin, while the 2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix winner also implored Mercedes to understand why their race pace is much better than their qualifying pace.
“For sure there is a similar trend to our race pace looking better than our quali pace, this is something we need to continue to investigate and look out,” said Russell.
“There are a few teams out there looking very strong, obviously Aston Martin probably the biggest surprise, they’ve clearly done a very good job over the winter.
“This is only our fourth day with this new car, we just need to make sure we’ve got it in the window where it is reaching its full potential, and probably pretty sure we’ve not got it there.
“It’s still early days but clearly we want to be higher up the timesheet than we are. So, that’s no secret.”