Mercedes prioritised making car “less of a handful” for race

2021 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Mercedes say their new car is much harder to work with than its predecessor, and tried to make it more forgiving to drive for the first race of the season.

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will line up second and third for today’s Bahrain Grand Prix behind Red Bulls Max Verstappen.

“It’s disappointing at the first race to be looking at a 0.4s gap to pole,” said the team’s trackside operations director Andrew Shovlin, “but at least we know the performance we need to find going forward.

“It’s also no secret that we’ve been struggling with the car around this circuit. It’s nowhere near as easy to work with as the W11 but everyone in Brackley and Brixworth has been working hard since the test and we’ve learnt a lot about the W12 and found a more predicable balance, even if we’re lacking overall pace.”

Despite not having the quickest car in terms of outright pace, both drivers were able to qualify on the harder medium compound tyre, ensuring they won’t be at a strategic disadvantage to pole-winner Verstappen. However Shovlin is unsure how competitive they’ll be in the race.

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“It’s hard to read where we are on race pace from the Friday long runs as we didn’t land the car in the right window but we’re fairly confident we’ve improved the rear grip so it will be less of a handful in the race. We might not be on pole but we have two cars at the front and an extra set of the hard tyres, so hopefully we can create some opportunities from that.”

Hamilton expects a “very strong” Red Bull in the race
Hamilton warned Red Bull will be “very strong in the race conditions” on Sunday. “I’d like to think that we can close up a little bit, but I think they’ve still got at least two tenths in hand.”

The team suspect rules changes during the off-season cutting back the size of their rear floor has hit them harder than Red Bull. Mercedes run a lower rake angle than their rivals, meaning the rear of the car is closer to the ground, and therefore more susceptible to changes in this area.

However Bottas suspects Red Bull’s advantage is due to more than just the difference in rake angles between the two cars:

“I don’t know the facts exactly how Red Bull’s cars’ aero philosophy is, for sure it’s higher rake, but how much that’s going to be affected with the new regs?

“I think they have a really strong package overall. Their power unit, their chassis, their aero is good. They’ve done a good job over the winter and we need to do a better job.”

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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...
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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14 comments on “Mercedes prioritised making car “less of a handful” for race”

  1. Mercedes and their fans are acting as if they have done a Ferrari 2020 and f’d up royally. For God’s sake you are 2nd and 3rd with great race pace..

    1. @knightameer we are all tired of Mercedes complaining, whatever the result. If they get simply beaten in a straight fight this season it will damage their legacy a bit. It would be bit “a competitor finally came along and they failed”. I always thought they wouldn’t be great competitors without a strong advantage. You will see it break and crumble with more strategy fails and complaining.

      Let’s see, personally hoping for completion till the last race between multiple teams. One can dream.

      1. When they were winning, the were always downplaying their chances to validate their wins. Now when they have a little competition, they are like we have been hampered by the rules, the car is not fun anymore.. There is just no pleasing Mercedes. All of this hoo haa and its only the first race.

      2. we are all tired of Mercedes complaining

        It’s indeed a bit disappointing how they react. @maxv
        I didn’t even open the ‘peg us back’ story as it’s tiring to just get the negative side.

        Just celebrate that as a team you’re still quickest, focus on improving like all teams do, and see it as a positive for the competition and most fans.

        1. If they didn’t think this way they wouldn’t have won 7 consecutive double championships. This is a winning mentality and if you call it whining then good for you.

          1. I deliberately didn’t call it ‘whining’ and tried to keep the comment as positive as possible.
            But still it seemed to have triggered you @Boudi.

      3. Yea, its not like Horner and the usual naysayers have spent the last 7 years whinging about magic buttons, engines etc after RBs run of world championships. Or will do so again as soon as a Merc crosses the line in first place.

  2. They’ve had a diva before but that didn’t stop them nailing almost all races, so this could well be the odd race out.

    Add to that some ERS issues, not a top lap in qualifying, and the real gap could be 0.1-0.2s which means it’s likely all gone in the next race.

    1. @balue
      Exactly. Wolff and his team will freak out and make it sound that it is the end of the world if a rival team get a pole position in a race (RBR still didn’t win) and they win all remaining 22 races. It’s a politic they have chosen to stop the FIA from doing any level playing field changes. They still run away with it but they always try to make it sound how hard it was for them to win the championship and they are always praising their rivals. In the next race, Wolff will be talking how Ferrari are a real threat for this year’s championship.

  3. A lot of the complaints Mercedes make aren’t really complaints. Many of the quotes you see are reactions to questions and very small parts of interviews which are focused on and the original context is lost. It can sometimes look like Toto has come out and given a press conference full of complaints when in actual fact he may have given a very different message but 1 line of dialogue has been used to create a headline.

    It happens with *all* teams and drivers. Only a few days ago I saw a headline on another site about Vettel “slamming” Alonso and calling him ignorant – when I read the actual quote, he didn’t at all and Vettel came across as very balanced and pleasant in the interview, not the angry driver the summary suggested.

    1. I think most people understand this, but it does give posters an opportunity to select the ‘story’ that suits their agenda.

      ‘We are a lot closer than we thought, and puts us in a position to cause RB trouble’ Hamilton
      ‘Just what the Dr ordered!’ Mercedes
      ‘I like being the hunter’ Hamilton
      ‘Excited about a real fight’ Wolff
      ‘We are in a strong position for tomorrow’ Shovlin

      But we can dismiss all that by playing the ‘its just PR’ card

  4. I suppose it is quite funny reading them talk of how difficult and stubborn this car is and how much trouble Hamilton & Bottas are having with it and they’re still 2nd/3rd. Makes me wonder how truly easy the last few years have been for them if 2nd/3rd is considered ‘difficult’.

    Even so with the amount of downplaying Mercedes do every year I still don’t believe them. I’ve heard ‘the pack has caught us’ so many times now and then seen them cruise to an uncontested 1-2 that until they’ve actually lost the title I don’t think I can trust them at all. Too much crying Wolff.

  5. Merc are very close despite handling issues and engine clipping. 23 races, they will get it right and when they do they will win. I think maybe like 2p13 when the fastest team nails their issues that year they won the last 9 races. I really think Hamiltons going to beat a few records not discussed yet – he could beat Vettels 9 in a row race wins and Vettel Schumacher 13 wins in a season. This is my gut feeling.

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