Hamilton ruing lost downforce as Red Bull outpace Mercedes in practice

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes must continue improving their car’s rear-end stability after setting the third-fastest time in Friday practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The world champion looked ill at ease with his new car during the three-day pre-season test at Bahrain International Circuit. He suggested off-season rules changes cutting rear downforce had hit Mercedes harder than other teams.

Hamilton appeared more comfortable during today’s practice sessions, albeit in more stable track conditions.

“Obviously coming into this weekend we’ve done a lot of work in the past week and I think we have taken a step forward, but we still have more to do,” said Hamilton after practice.

“With tyres and downforce reduced, the global balance has just shifted and it wasn’t where we wanted to be. This weekend it’s looking better, but still not perfect.”

Asked where Mercedes need to focus to improve the car for qualifying, Hamilton said: “Stability.

“It’s all about having a stable car, and knowing how to make the tyres last. That’s going to be key in this climate and the wind that we have here.”

Blustery winds and possible sandstorms are expected over the next two days of the grand prix weekend. Hamilton said the weather forecast for the rest of the weekend is “not great” for Mercedes, as they try to claw back the downforce lost through the 2021 regulation changes.

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“The rear is unstable as it is, but everyone I’m sure will be in the same boat, some more and some less [with the wind].

“It’s when you approach a corner and the rear moves and you’re trying to find that tipping point. But the tipping point used to be further away with more downforce on the car, now it falls away much quicker than usual.

“These tyres, the performance we’ve lost on tyres this year doesn’t help, but we’ll work away on that and try to find a way.”

Red Bull and McLaren outpaced Mercedes in practice, and Hamilton said he expected them to be further ahead.

“We thought Red Bull would be as fast as they are, if not faster. So we know they’re leading at the moment. McLaren are looking great, and it’s great to see them taking a step. It would be interesting to see how the long runs are.”

As third practice on Saturday takes place during daylight hours, the long run pace in that session won’t be as relevant as the race will take place in cooler conditions after dark. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said their car hadn’t worked as well in the lower evening temperatures.

“The night has fallen and the conditions haven’t come towards us,” he told Sky. “It’s just a real dogfight.

“When you overlay the fastest laps, and even the long runs, it’s just so very close that every kilogram in fuel load can make quite a big swing. So we don’t really know [where we are].”

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2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Elliot Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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33 comments on “Hamilton ruing lost downforce as Red Bull outpace Mercedes in practice”

  1. So Honda has the best engine now and Red Bull pushed for engine freeze to make sure no one have possibility to catch them in coming years. I think engine freeze should be cancelled. We don’t need half decade dominance of another team.

    1. Such nonsense. Even if Honda did have the “best engine now.” Honda didn’t push for an engine freeze, in fact, Honda wasn’t even in that conversation because they’re leaving the sport. Red Bull asked for an engine freeze despite voting against it earlier in hopes Honda would stay, because they do not yet have the facilities and personnel to develop an engine in the next few years and would have had to resort to customer engines or leave the sport entirely.

      Undoing the engine freeze means we lose the only team capable of challenging them, either entirely or due to having to run a customer Renault engine. You might want that, but I doubt many others would like that.

      1. I didn’t say Honda pushed for engine freeze. Yeah, we heard that story about facilities. Nice one, but that’s just a good excuse.

    2. Let’s wait till after Quali 🙂

  2. Please don’t make this a Red Bull dominance year I just want to see equal cars battling.

    1. Merc is forever the struggling underdog.

      “These tires are dead Bono, can’t you see!!”
      -Lewis, you just set the fastest lap of the race.

    2. Mercedes were faster than RBR on the long runs.

      1. Hamilton was faster by less than a tenth; Bottas was shocking.

        1. Bottas being just…Bottas. In one of the laps on the medium tyres, he was 2s off Hamilton’s pace.

          1. I think this was Bottas squared. Half a second a lap slower than Ham on the last 5 laps of the long run. Before all five lap time were deleted for exceeding track limits.

      2. I thought it was the other way around. Cars were significantly slower in their race simulations and RB was the fastest. But in outright pace Mercedes was #1.

  3. We’ve had two practice sessions and people are already shouting about Red Bull dominance. Sure, Max was quickest on both sessions, but, you also had McLaren and Mercedes in the mix too. It’s about time that there was some competition for Mercedes (yet to be properly seen) and it will make this year’s championship worth something if there is.

    1. One day of Red Bull dominance, when will it end??!!!!!

    2. Correction… Verstappen’s domination… He has been leading all the testing and free practice sessions he participated in

  4. so basically, the sole fact that there is a car in the first position is reason enough so shout at a dominant team, and how boring it will be. You know that out of 20 cars, 1 must be in front, right?

    1. True. Its not like anyone shouts Mercedes dominance when they lead a couple of sessions.

      1. The difference is that Mercedes dominance is very real while Red Bull dominance is merely a figment of your imagination.

        1. @kingshark
          I still think Mercedes will run away with this one too. That will take sandbagging to a whole new level.

        2. I can only assume that you think I said or implied anything about Red Bull domination can only be down to your lack of reading skills. Or maybe just a figment of your imagination?

          Or were you one of those screaming on social media about Mercedes dominance when Ham set the fastest time in P2; only to very quickly back track to ‘well it’s only Practice 2’ when Max and Norris set better times? One can only imagine.

          1. Or were you one of those screaming on social media about Mercedes dominance when Ham set the fastest time in P2; only to very quickly back track to ‘well it’s only Practice 2’ when Max and Norris set better times?

            No actually I was too busy to follow FP1 or FP2 closely.

            All I will say is that maybe, just maybe, the double standards you are complaining about wouldn’t exist if Mercedes and Red Bull had split the cake in the last 7 years instead of Mercedes winning everything and Red Bull feeding on breadcrumbs.

          2. I didn’t say anything about double standards? In the same way Ive never mentioned RB dominance. What on earth are you on about? The point being it doesn’t matter who it is, as soon as they are in front for 5 mins ‘dominance’ gets bandied about. And I’m not into getting miffed because an incompetent Red Bull team hasn’t won a far share of the prizes. I leave that to you.

  5. Word is that Mercedes had the entire team go on a field trip to the bahrain desert for one reason – fill bags with sand for the season opener.

  6. Come qualifying I reckon Mercedes would be in Top 5 thanks to supreme engine. The actual drama is race day with long hours distance run, let’s see when Hamilton and Bottas would be spinning or how many spins count they have done.

  7. They are again sandbagging so hard it is not even funny. I can see Max being amongst the mercs or ahead but there is definitely a gap between Max, the mercs and the rest of the field.

  8. But.. But.. It’s the driver, not the car :)

  9. Given his experience, 7-time WDC, best of the field, voted best of the field…. I’m fully confident HAM can recover easily a 0.2-0.3 deficit in performance to RBR. In the wet, a loooot easier for him.

    1. @mg1982 True, but it doesn’t rain that often in the desert though.

      1. Well, it doesn’t matter now. If we take things for granted so far, the deficit between RBR and Mercedes seems to be like 0.2sec in the dry…. so I expect HAM to overcome the deficit and come on top. If it rains, he should finish like 1min ahead of 2nd best.

  10. Did anyone else notice that when everyone did a short fuel medium run , mercs were 0.2-0.5 quicker than the rest of the field.

    On the soft runs, everyone improved from medium to soft by 0.8 sec but Merc only improved by 0.1 sec. ?

    Norris and Ric will be a close batter thought out the season and Sainz will confirm to grid that he is a top driver .

    Reply moderated
  11. Mark Hughes is suggesting that Mercedes has “something up its sleeve, with what is believed to be a super-cooling system within the inlet plenum for short bursts of extra power”.

    Eh?

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