Wolff airs Mercedes catch-up concern for F1 season-opener

Toto Wolff feels Mercedes will be playing catch up in Bahrain this weekend

Toto Wolff feels has early concerns for Mercedes in Bahrain this weekend

Toto Wolff feels Mercedes will again be playing catch up in this weekend’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix following a three-day test outing he claims was not the smoothest.

Following a strong end to last season, with George Russell scoring Mercedes’ only win in the penultimate race in São Paulo, the expectation was that the team had a platform on which to build for the winter.

With the launch of the W14, the car retained the ‘zero-sidepod’ concept that proved to be the stand-out feature of its predecessor.

Wolff, however, has insisted the sidepods were not the downfall of the W13 which was plagued by porpoising and bouncing as a result of the implementation of new aerodynamic regulations.

Across the three days of last week’s test at the Bahrain International Circuit, the expectation was that Mercedes had made the step forward to be as competitive as main rivals Red Bull and Ferrari.

A troublesome second day, though, proved to be a thorn in the side of Mercedes’ test programme.

Mercedes W14 providing a stronger base

Whilst there were improvements on the final day, the sense is Mercedes remains behind Red Bull and Ferrari, whilst it could now even be behind Aston Martin given the leap forward that team appears to have made.

Assessing what could unfold this weekend, Wolff said: “We didn’t have the smoothest winter test in Bahrain.

“We had some reliability problems and struggled with the car set-up on day two.

“But the key objective was to learn about the car, and we did lots of learning.

“We made good progress on the final day, which gave us directions to work on in the short period between the test and this weekend’s race.”

Recognising the difficulties in trying to obtain a clear picture from testing, given the cars at any one time are running different fuel loads and engine modes, Wolff gets a sense Mercedes has plenty of work ahead of it.

The Austrian, however, at least feels the base of this season’s car is something on which development will be easier compared to a year ago.

“It’s always hard to have a clear picture of competitiveness at pre-season testing, and even more so with only three days of data available,” remarked Wolff.

“Our expectations were that we would likely be playing catch-up to the front, based on how last year ended. That seems to be the case so far but we will only know for sure after this weekend.

“Nevertheless, we are confident we have got a car we can work with and are in a stronger position than 12 months ago.

More importantly, we are relishing the challenge. This championship will be fought over 23 race weekends, and each one will give us an opportunity to improve.

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