Hamilton: Mercedes ‘on the wrong track’
By Ian Parkes
Saturday 4th March, 2023 - 10:00am
Lewis Hamilton has proclaimed Mercedes to be “on the wrong track” following the opening day of F1 practice.
The suggestion after the three days of pre-season testing last week at the Bahrain International Circuit was that Mercedes was around a second off the pace of Red Bull.
At the conclusion of practice, with the second session run in conditions that will be representative of the race on Sunday, the W14s of Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were 0.636s and 0.975s adrift respectively after the soft-tyre qualifying simulation runs.
“We found out we are a long way off,” said a downbeat Hamilton. “We knew that a little bit in the test but it is a big gap. Red Bull was a second a lap faster on the long runs so we have got a lot to work on.
“I am trying everything I can but it is what it is and we have to work on it, with the car the best place I can get it set-up-wise.
“I will continue to tweak little bits here and there, but it is going to be small bits which are milliseconds so it is not going to allow us to close up by one second.”
Assessing the current pecking order ahead of qualifying, Hamilton said: “I thought the Ferraris were second [after testing], but on the long run, we are quite closer to Ferrari.
“It looks like Aston Martin is second and we are between third and fourth.”
Hamilton questions Mercedes concept
Last season, Mercedes found itself on the backfoot following the introduction of the new aerodynamic regulations, with its W13 badly affected by porpoising and bouncing.
Over the course of the campaign, Mercedes chipped away and by the conclusion was arguably quicker than Ferrari, going on to finally clinch a victory in the penultimate race in São Paulo.
The expectation was that Mercedes would continue to close the gap with development over the winter on its new car and be closer to front-running Mercedes.
That, however, is clearly not the case.
“We are either where we were last year, if not a little bit further behind,” said the seven-time F1 champion.
“It is difficult for everybody, and it is really 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 a long way off the guys in front.
“I have to be hopeful. There was good progress last year but the gap wasn’t as big as it is now.
“Do I believe we can close the gap at some stage? Yes, but I think it is quite hard with the concept we have.”
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