According to Andrew Shovlin, the data gathered by Mercedes has told them that they’re not as quick as Red Bull and may be in trouble.
The German team made something of a nightmare start to the season in testing in Bahrain.
On the first day, a gearbox issue prevented Valtteri Bottas from doing more than six laps, while when he and Lewis Hamilton were on-track, they often struggled to control the W12 and didn’t set many quick laps.
Red Bull meanwhile had no such issues, completing 65 laps more and setting the fastest time of anyone courtesy of Max Verstappen.
Many feel that the Dutchman’s team will be the fastest in the season opener, and Shovlin says that the data suggests that will indeed be the case and that the champions could have their work cut out.
“We’ve had another day with good reliability where we were able to run to plan throughout the day,” said the team’s engineering director.
“Valtteri was doing long run setup work in the morning and Lewis doing a mix of long run work and qualifying work in the afternoon.
“We’ve made a bit of progress with the balance on higher fuel and the car was more predictable but we can see from the data we’ve collected over the last few days that on race pace, we’re not as quick as Red Bull.
“The lower fuel work was a more confusing picture, we didn’t gain enough and we need to go and look at our approach as far too many cars were ahead of us on pace today.
“We’ve had issues in recent years with pace in winter testing and managed to make good progress before the first race but we may have our work cut out this time.
“We’ve not got long before we’re back here for the race so we’ve planned a programme of work to try and understand some of our issues and will be leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to find some more speed over the next ten days.”
Signing off from #F1Testing with another 140 laps. 👊
Time to debrief, understand some of our issues and find some more speed over the next ten days. pic.twitter.com/YDitx8oNHF
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) March 14, 2021
It has undoubtedly been the worst start to a season for Mercedes in the hybrid era, with them previously encountering precious few problems in pre-season tests.
Nevertheless, while Toto Wolff admits that he’s worried, he says that discovering issues is exciting.
“I always worry, sometimes for the right reasons, sometimes for the wrong reasons,” he said.
“Pre-season testing is always exciting because you always find the hair in the soup, things that are not good, and we had quite some struggles in the first two days.”