Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Hamilton: Mercedes even further behind rivals than last year after practice

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes have fallen even further behind their rivals following the first day of practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix.

The team “found out we are a long way off” in today’s two practice sessions at the Bahrain International Circuit, said Hamilton.

“We kind of knew that a little bit in the test, but it’s a big gap. I’m trying everything I can out there but it is what it is and so we’ve just got to try and work at it.”

Hamilton ended the second practice sessions eighth on the times sheets, 0.636 seconds slower than pace-setter Fernando Alonso. George Russell was only 13th in the other Mercedes, nearly a full second off the pace.

The W14 didn’t feel especially strong on single-lap pace or over a race stint, said Hamilton. “I think they’re very, very similar. We’re offset in the low and in high to Red Bull. Just looking at the long runs, they were a second a lap faster. So we’ve got a lot to work on.”

Mercedes are only likely to find small gains in performance between now and tomorrow’s qualifying session, said Hamilton.

“I think I got the car to the best place I can get it, set-up wise. We’ll continue to tweak little bits here and there but it’s going to be small bits here and there, which is milliseconds, it’s not going to be the closing of the gap of a second.

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“But nonetheless we’ll just keep our head down tonight, we’ll go through the data, we’ll continue to work and try to progress tomorrow. We’ve got to try and find out if there’s any way we’re going to add performance overnight.”

Alexander Albon, Williams, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
Gallery: 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix practice in pictures
The team went into the new season with high expectations that it would make progress after curing the bouncing which plagued its car last year. However Hamilton said the team hasn’t made the performance gains it expected to find.

“I thought that the Ferraris were second,” he said. “I think on the long run, we’re quite close to Ferrari. It looks like Aston was second and we’re between third and fourth. So we’re kind of either where we were last year, if not a little bit further behind.

“It’s difficult for everybody and this is really not where I think anyone in the team wants to be, and certainly not where I believe everyone in the team deserves to be, because everyone continues to work so hard and we’re so courageous and thoughtful.

“But we’re just on the wrong track so we’ve got to just continue to graft away and find a way to get on the right track. Right now we’re a long way from the guys in front.”

Hamilton said he will continue to be “hopeful” the team can make gains with its car. “I think there was good progress through 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’s quite hard with concept we have.”

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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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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63 comments on “Hamilton: Mercedes even further behind rivals than last year after practice”

  1. Accelerate 25 programme bearing fruits since its introduction after 2020 when they won everything with the best F1 car ever. Enjoy it Mercedes and Hamilton fans!

    1. What a horrible comment. You’re blaming a programme for diversity and inclusion on their drop in performance?

      1. Hey cut him some slack, he’s only an “armchair expert” who knows nothing about Mercedes’ internal operations. Lewis striving for positive things only causes the in the closet bigots to come out. You can blame part of it on Red Bull poaching some of their top engineers and aero guys but this has zero to do with Hamilton’s diversity initiatives, the team would not allow that if they knew it was impairing their performance. The ‘22 regulations were a big and change still being on the podium regularly is pretty damn impressive for the most dominant team in F1. People complained when they dominated, the same people are complaining when they are struggling for some odd reason. Guess they really don’t like Lewis and positive efforts to enhance diversity in an all white male sport.

        1. What I do find strange is there’s no “Report Comment” button for the post.

          1. Yup and that’s surprising

          2. someone or something
            4th March 2023, 12:43

            Interesting observation indeed, but I believe this means someone else has already reported the comment, at which point the button is hidden in order to avoid getting flooded with “reports” for one and the same controversial (or in this case, unspeakably rubbish) comment.
            I’ve tried reporting another, completely innocent, message, and the result looks the same.

    2. Mark (@surfermark)
      4th March 2023, 9:04

      Fair point, it’s impossible to rule out the correlation here.

      1. Correlation doesn’t equal causation.

      2. Precisely. When focus -and its implied rewards – moves elsewhere it is perfectly normal degradation in quality of an institution.

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    3rd March 2023, 17:10

    Yeah but it’s kind of irrelevant. Mercedes may be further behind Red Bull than they were last year but their car isn’t inherently broken this time. Red Bull are basically using a massively upgraded RB18 so have as expected, hit the ground running. Mercedes developed their car really well last year despite its problems so they’ll do the same this year. If they can carry most of this car over to 2024, they’ll be in great shape.

    1. Sam (@undercut677)
      3rd March 2023, 17:20

      It is impossible for all cars to improve relative to the rest of field and some initial concepts will have a ceiling that is just lower than others. This might be happening to the Merc. Toto and the team could do a great job at engineering the maximum performance out of their initial concept but if its ceiling is lower than the rest of the field, there is only so much they can do.

      I wonder if they are starting to regret not massively deviating from their design for this year’s car.

      1. This is absolutely correct as an engineering manager of an R&D team (not F1). Some designs have higher performance ceilings than others. You can optimise a design to an nth degree but if it has lower ceiling than another then the performance will be worse no matter how good a job one does.

        This is why budget cap breaches in the first year of a new regulation are so performance enancing. If a single dollar swayed the decision to use the best concept then the ROI is huge.

  3. Really bad times again for Mercedes. Absolutely nowhere with single lap or race pace. They’ll genuinely struggle to get into Q2 tomorrow. They must believe they are higher fuel than the competition too as Hamilton’s 1 second per lap comment is actually incredibly optimistic when you look at the real times.

    How does this team keep getting it so wrong.

    1. Well, give me a reason why they wouldn’t get it so wrong? All the top engineers left the team already.. They messed up the car last year, all the other teams went for a red bull design. And AM was even further behind then Mercedes. Toto can focus on PR again, wonder what team or driver he will attack this time.. Of course, we know that already.. Well, he’s really good at it, the absolute best, no doubt about that.. Maybe Mercedes needs someone who can create a winning team, someone like Brawn, perhaps.. And after the hard work, Wolff can play boss again?

      1. I wouldn’t be so hard on them. At least not just yet. They did manage to win 15 championships in 8 years.
        What does seem to be the case is they still, in spite of all that T Wolff has told us, do not have a real handle on understanding and countering porpoising. They can manage it with settings, but then they are lamenting that Red Bull can run lower and faster with a suspension capable of handling curbs and bumps. Shows that it can be done.
        OK. Now you can be hard on them.

      2. Why do you treat Mercedes and Toto as a team who has won absolutely nothing and only made mistakes and bad decisions? They had a superb run, massive success with the people they had in the previous generation, and they managed to maintain their superiority after constant regulation changes on the engine and aero fronts to help their rivals close the gap. Now that streak of success is behind, people have left, and they got the car concept wrong. Still hats off to them for being bold. But this year there’s no excuse to have fallen behind even further. Either there’s something wrong with the data they’re getting from their simulations and tests, or they’re making bad decisions. Aston has just proven that it’s possible to make a huge step in performance, so now Mercedes has every reason to be concerned and start to look inwards to understand what’s really going wrong. That’s the nature of motorsport. Nothing lasts forever. Success is cyclical.

        1. I am afraid the great Mercedes job was done in run up to start of 10 decade regulations. They build such a huge advantage that they could play it safe.

  4. Thank God Alonso is up there or the season would be over before it has begun…

    1. The Ferrari isn’t far away racepace but i think they will improve in 3th pratice.

    2. the season would be over :The season IS OVER.
      The only remaining question is How MANY races Max wins?
      21 Races won by Max this year? or All of them.
      Otherwise the season is over and dusted.

  5. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    3rd March 2023, 17:47

    This time last year Hamilton was 1.2 seconds slower. This time it is 0.6, so progress has been made.

    1. Indeed. This part of the season drives me nuts. All will be revealed later and it will bear only vague resemblance to what we “know” now!

      1. Yeah, except everyone else is not standing still. It’s pretty tough to catch up when the leaders are also going faster. The race and quali will give us a hint. The problem is that a back marker not only has to make up time, but they also have to develop for next year; the cross over for abandoning the current season’s car and starting on next year is a difficult one, especially with a cost capped system. Spend the money now and not have funds for a new design or try to improve the current machine…….

    2. Long run pace was about a second off the RBR and Aston though. If that transpires in the race, then they are further behind than they were last year.

  6. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    3rd March 2023, 18:11

    I really think it’s way too early to be drawing these conclusions. Even after qualifying I’d say it’s too early. If after Sunday neither Mercedes features in the top 5 then I’d say he’s absolutely right, but until then I’m expecting them to be a formidable threat for a podium.

    1. Podium, hahahahahaha they’ll be lucky to be in the top 10.

      RedBull, Aston, Ferrari, Alpine and McLaren all averaged faster race pace. The Ferrari long run was only 5 laps so that makes their time difference a bit larger than reality, but Mercedes are behind by at least:

      1.2 to Redbull
      1 to Aston Martin
      .5 to Ferrari
      .3 to McLaren
      .1 to Alpine

      Add that their single lap pace looks worse than Haas, and Alfa Romeo and boy are they in trouble.

      Sure this is just one track, but that’s an extremely bad start to the season. Last year the car was fast but plagued with problems. This year it just looks slow.

      1. I’ve not really followed testing too closely, do we really think the Aston is second fastest? And if so what have they done that Merc haven’t? Not so many moons ago they were just taking pictures and then copying the Merc. Yes, facilities have improved drastically and will continue to do so, but what is it thats pushing the Aston up the field whilst Merc falls back? *If that is what is indeed actually happening.

        I guess we find out on Saturday

        1. yes, their pace is genuine. The only competition for 2nd fastest comes from Ferrari. Their pace is somewhat harder to judge due to their run programs.

          After pre season testing sky did an analysis which put Alonso P3 based on the race sim. Today it was close between RedBull and Aston, but it’s believed Aston were running a touch lighter on fuel. The gap from those to Ferrari is around a second, but Ferraris long run was only 5 laps, so it’s hard to read too much into the times. Their last lap was also very similar to Astons, so they might be less than the 0.5 I originally quoted, but are likely to have dropped to 3rd.

          Mercedes are completely lost. You can see it in Hamilton’s and Russell’s faces during the interview. It might be track specific, but 100% this weekend is looking tricky for a top 10 finish.

          1. Wow, thank you.

        2. Dan Fallows!

        3. @bernasaurus
          As mentioned by Boomerang, the shopping they have done at Milton Keynes and especially Adrian Newey’s right hand man.

      2. Where are you getting these numbers from and why are you so confident about them?

        The fact that everyone is just taking this at face value is concerning, but I guess people will believe anything they’re told as long as the other person appears confident.

    2. Exactly!

  7. Mercedes 1-2 on Sunday confirmed.

  8. Good grief, they do look slow. If it was easy and comfortable for them to be speed leaders, it would have shown. So far – not even ‘best of the rest’.

  9. BLS (@brightlampshade)
    3rd March 2023, 19:16

    I hope they’re sandbagging for competitions sake as I just don’t trust Ferrari to be able to take it to Red Bull.

    Aston, well I have my doubts they’re anywhere near as fast as they’re pretending, but I suppose I can hope!

    1. You’ll see tomorrow but if anything there’s more sandbags in the Aston than the Mercedes. Never thought I’d be saying that!

    2. @brightlampshade

      well I have my doubts they’re anywhere near as fast as they’re pretending

      You have discovered their cunning plan. On Sunday they are just going to ‘pretend’ to be even faster.

      1. BLS (@brightlampshade)
        5th March 2023, 11:36

        Battling for 3rd/4th best with Mercedes it seems, but then compared to last season that’s a cracking result for them.

    3. There’s only so much sand you can fit in a F1 car. Looks like they’re in trouble.

    4. Why would they sandbag at this point? I don;t see any benefit from hiding pace at all. Please explain as I am curious.

  10. they were a sec a lap slower last year as well. But no porpoising to blame now. Another season in the can.

  11. Lewis believes they are slower…I am not sure I believe Lewis…..will know who is right after the race

    1. I recommend you watch the interview. He looks completely dead in the eyes. 100% he’s telling the truth. He knows he’s got another lemon this year.

      1. Yeah I saw that and noticed exactly the same thing with Hamilton. He looked utterly dejected and even said they wouldn’t be able to close the gap to RB with this concept. I’m also not sure what Mercedes have to gain by sandbagging anymore.

        1. Mercedes won so many races that even after they finally lost a championship people still think they’re sandbagging lol

          They’s probably the 4th or 5th fastest team at the moment, but they can bounce back. Red Bull is out of reach, this is clear already.

      2. PMccarthy_is_a_legend (@pmccarthy_is_a_legend)
        4th March 2023, 0:29

        How long do guys reckon it will take Mercedes to swallow their pride and change the car concept towards a more “Red Bull” like philosophy? I think Toto would rather eat his own arm than give Christian that satisfaction 😂 let’s see how the first few races pan out…

        1. The Dolphins
          4th March 2023, 4:41

          I doubt they will go the Red Bull route, more likely to copy the Aston Martin and build on it

        2. I suspect the cost cap may be an issue; ‘change the car concept’ would cost mucho dinero, which they don’t have to spend.

  12. Crikey that Merc is bad.

  13. I am Dutch. Lots of Max fans here. To me the whole thing is a mystery. Hamilton won for years in a row, why: because he is such a master driver, No, je certainly van drive, but so can all others. Why did he won so much? very simple, his car was far superior compared to all others. Now Max wins. Why? Exact same story. He drives a better car. To me the F1 is totally uninteresting. The guy is best car wins. Completely outdated cars. A lot of money spent on cars of the past. Electric cars are the future. I wish they would spend all that money on developing on improving batteries, and people would be excited about groundbreaking developments in this field in stead of making a whole fuzz about drivers who simply win because their car is better than all others.

  14. Suspect b spec is in the wind tunnel. Nando looks good in the AMR. But this might be an exceptionally long road for the Aero team at MB. Goat Newey and his disciples march on.
    These new regs are doing ok, but it doesn’t seem to be encouraging much artistic license especially if the entire field end up with almost the same concept for best performance.

  15. Well, looking at the time sheets they are actually not further behind, so there is the good old underdog narrative again. Nevertheless his overall message might be true. Like with any sports this puts a frown on some faces and a laughter on others.

    1. You actually said something remotely nice about Hamilton and Mercedes…maybe you are just gloating about their predicament. however, I applaud you for your consistency…

  16. Looks like it is going to be another good season like 2013 and 2022.

  17. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    4th March 2023, 11:12

    Having looked again at the FP2 times 2022 and 2023 the field has bunched up. The top time is 1 second faster than last year after FP2.

    All the cars are faster. Logan Sargeant was 2 seconds quicker than the slowest Williams last year after FP2.

  18. Hamilton bad-start article, 50+ comments. Verstappen bad-start article, 0 comments.

    1. Ian Mark Gondwe
      4th March 2023, 14:30

      All you need to know

  19. Who cares, ham is done. Will the last handful of his DTS ‘fans’ please turn out the lights on your way out… Muffled laugh!!!

  20. Jimmy Cliff
    4th March 2023, 13:40

    Good, good and good again. Mercedes to be like Williams and in return Williams being a solid mid team again.

    Absolutely loving to see Mercedes struggle – they had their fun for 8 years and they behaved horribly thinking they were better people just because they won. Toto is absolutely the worst example and F1 would be much better without him, hope Mercedes fire him ASAP.

    Only political nonsense being said by Toto and Lewis, pretty much lying and whining about everything. Shame for Russell but he already became a Toto parrot ever since his crash with Bottas in Italy.

  21. Keith Collantine is suffering a lot, seeing Slondo with a competitive car gives him ulcers.

  22. Keith Collantine is suffering a lot, seeing Alonso with a competitive car gives him ulcers.

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