Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021

First day of testing was “a poor start to the season”, Mercedes admits

2021 F1 season

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Mercedes made “a poor start to the season” on the first day of testing, trackside operations director Andrew Shovlin admitted.

The team covered just six laps with Valtteri Bottas in the morning due to a gearbox problem. Following a delayed start to the afternoon session, Lewis Hamilton added 42 laps to Mercedes’ total, but rivals such as Red Bull covered almost three times as much ground.

With pre-season testing cut to just three days this year, the world champions can ill-afford to lose much more running.

“It’s been a poor start to the season from us today,” said Shovlin. “We lost more or less the whole morning with Valtteri with a gearbox problem and our workload over lunch meant we were late joining the afternoon session with Lewis.”

The team wasn’t happy with how the W12 handled ‘out of the box’ either.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2021
Gearbox glitch limited Bottas to just half-a-dozen laps
“Once we got running it was clear we didn’t have the car in the right balance window,” said Shovlin. “While we made some progress during the day, we’re not happy with how the car is performing and it’s pretty clear we have some work to do.

“We’re quite a way behind on our test programme and need to find a bit of balance and speed but we have two days left and every opportunity to recover the situation.”

Hamilton said the team “have no choice but to take the positives” from their difficult start to the season.

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“I remember in 2007 during testing I had 10 days in the car and now it’s getting less and less. We only have a day and a half in the car before the first race, with different tyres and different aero modifications.

“So it’s not easy but it’s the same for everyone. I’d like to think my nine years’ experience with this team will help me get the best out of it.”

The seven-times world champion was surprised by the strength of the sandstorm which hit the track in the afternoon.

“I’ve never seen a sandstorm come through here before in all the years that I’ve driven at this circuit. The sand was moving like rain would move.

“Having sand on the tyres isn’t good for their longevity and getting consistency on long runs is difficult. Over a single lap it isn’t the worst, but you need lots of laps at this time of year to get data.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “First day of testing was “a poor start to the season”, Mercedes admits”

  1. Are Mercedes really losing ground or not? All this talk in the winter about having problems with the new engine and now this. I doubt but they can’t keep winning every single season.

    1. Who knows. Gearbox might be an incident, or might be a serious issue.

      The sliding and instability during Lewis stint might be a setup issue that’s easily resolved, or related to specific track conditions, or it might be a more serious problem with the package like Red Bull experienced last year.

      End of day, they won all previous seven championships and fundementally nothing too radical has changed from those past seven years, so it’s unlikely they won’t be the team to beat as it has been.

  2. Is it too ealry to congratulate Sir Lewis Hamilton on his 8th title?

  3. Classic Mercedes ‘crisis’.

    Q3, quickest by 9 tenths.

  4. Listening to Bottas it souned as if Merc did not find it useful to do a shakedown before. They had enough info to start the pre season on day one.
    A bit arrogant and something that really bites today…
    A filming day would have shown the gearbox problem, the loose mirror and several other stupid things..
    A very bad start of the season. While there is enough time to recover form this blunder merc already lost of lot of meaningful info. But on the other hand they learned a lot….

  5. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    12th March 2021, 20:49

    With any luck but knowing merc they probably faked all these incidents and act like it’s a miracle when they win first race by 50 seconds.

  6. Mercedes will still be quickest in two weeks time (and they’ll be happy to use this situation in their underdog narrative), but if these issues can bring their starting season advantage from 9 tenths to 2 or 3 tents, we should be in for a bit more dramatic season than expected.

  7. I still think they deserve the respect as being the benchmark until proven otherwise, but I’m just happy that RBR were able to do what is under their control by putting in the laps they did and thus gaining a lot of data to pour over. Same with AT as the other Honda car.

  8. Agree this is an underdog narrative. Maybe a few first day teething issues, but they will be half a second ahead of all but possibly RB on race day.

  9. I feel that, in general, things are going differently for Mercedes this year. It doesn’t seem to be smooth sailing for them. From Lewis’s one year contract that came pretty late and his comments that his focus lies beyond breaking records, to not doing a shakedown (why?), to the gearbox and set-up problems. Little hiccups that I’m not used to seeing at Mercedes.

    They might be 9 tenths clear again when we get to the end of Q3 of the first race, but the vibe at Merc isn’t as robust as it used to.

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