The bad news coming from Mercedes continues with Andrew Shovlin saying this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix is a case of “damage limitation” for the reigning Constructors’ champions.
Putting in the laps in Friday’s practice, George Russell finished fourth fastest with Lewis Hamilton down in P9.
And judging by the gap to the front, it seems Mercedes pre-race concerns were justified.
Russell was sixth-tenths behind P1 sitter Max Verstappen with Hamilton a further six-tenths back from his team-mate.
Neither driver is feeling confident about their chances come Saturday’s qualifying with Shovlin saying “damage limitation” may be the best Mercedes can hope for.
Although having two cars on the track meant Mercedes were able to trial two different floor configurations, the Brackley squad seem to be no closer to solving the porpoising issues that are affecting their W13.
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“Our first session made use of the fact that we had two cars for the first time this year and chose to run them in different specifications,” the Mercedes’ trackside engineering director said.
“That was a useful test, and we got a clear read on which set-up and floor specification was best for the bouncing.
“However, we’re still struggling to get the rear of the car much lower and trying to do that gave the drivers a fairly bumpy time of it in the second session.
“In terms of pace, we have a significant gap to Ferrari and Red Bull, especially Max on the long run.
“There are some relatively easy gains we might be able to make overnight with the balance but we’re not going to find more than a few tenths.
“More important is that we keep learning as we don’t seem to have understood the bouncing as well as some of the others, it may also be that we’re lacking a bit of car pace.
“So, we’re expecting a tough couple of days where we need to focus on damage limitation but also continuing to experiment to see if we can find a better place to run the car.”
Hamilton and Russell insisted after pre-season testing that Mercedes were not the team to beat, a claim scoffed at by their rivals.
While Carlos Sainz said it is “typical” of Mercedes to downplay their form, Helmut Marko said they “whine” and then “boom”, they destroy the opposition.
Speaking after Friday’s run, Hamilton said as per The Race: “We’re not bluffing like people assume we are but we’ll work as hard as we can to get through it and do what we can.
“At the moment, we’re not going to be in the race for the win here, Red Bull are 0.8/0.9s ahead and Ferrari are half a second ahead so we’re scrapping with whoever is behind them.
“I’m still calm, just trying to be the best I can be and get the best out of the car. It’s not ideal but we’ll pull together as a team to try and fix it.”
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