Stunned Ferrari declare ‘never look into testing’ after surprise Mercedes surge

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton drives the Mercedes W15 in Bahrain practice.

Lewis Hamilton drives the Mercedes W15.

Mercedes shot to the top of the timings on Thursday in Bahrain, leading Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who set the pace in F1 2024 testing, to declare this is further proof that teams do not show their hand in pre-season.

While Red Bull and Max Verstappen went into the F1 2024 Bahrain season-opener seen as the team and driver to beat, Ferrari positioned themselves as potentially the clear ‘best of the rest’ with their testing performance, Sainz having comfortably set the fastest time, with the P2 effort going to team-mate Charles Leclerc.

However, it was neither Red Bull nor Ferrari who lit up the leaderboard on the opening day of track action at the Bahrain International Circuit, instead it was Mercedes, as Lewis Hamilton headed a one-two with team-mate George Russell P2, Sainz four-tenths behind Hamilton and Leclerc seven-tenths off the pace.

Ferrari put on high alert by Mercedes in Bahrain

While Hamilton has suggested Red Bull has too much for them to handle when it comes to race pace, Mercedes’ performance on Thursday in Bahrain has given him confidence that they can be right in the fight with Ferrari, which Sainz agrees with and says reinforces the long-standing belief that lap times in testing cannot be trusted.

“It just shows you can never look into testing, because people tend to not show all their cards, and it’s clear Mercedes are going to be in the fight,” Sainz told the Formula 1 website.

Leclerc, also speaking to the Formula 1 website, weighed in on Mercedes’ pace as a “surprise”.

That being said, he is waiting for qualifying, when there is no more doubt over what fuel loads teams are running, to get the accurate picture on where Mercedes stand.

“Mercedes look strong, which is a bit of a surprise,” said Leclerc. “But we don’t know which fuel [level] they were running, so I think we’ll have all our answers tomorrow.”

Though Mercedes continue to represent a major question mark for Leclerc, he is confident that Ferrari can be “in the mix” at the front come qualifying and race day.

However, with Sainz claiming that “Red Bull in the long run were a lot quicker than in the short run”, Leclerc admits what is achievable at the front depends on how Red Bull factor into the equation when the chips are down.

“I expect to be there with the others; the only question mark is obviously Red Bull, how far ahead they are in front,” said Leclerc. “But with the others, I would be surprised if we are not in the mix, yes.” recommends

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Ferrari were in a very positive mood coming out of testing, Leclerc explaining that the experience was a vast improvement compared to the year before, with the SF-24 proving more driver-friendly and understandable in terms of how to develop it through the season.

And that optimism continues to flow after Bahrain Thursday practice, Leclerc saying the SF-24 is operating in its sweet spot, which was certainly not the case with the SF-23 in Bahrain.

“I feel quite good with the car,” Leclerc confirmed, “and it’s a much better start compared to last year, where last year we arrived at the first race and it was very difficult to know what exactly was the right window where we could optimise our car.

“Today it’s not the case, we know we’re in the right window for performing at our best with this specific car, and now it’s all about tomorrow, to try and anticipate the conditions of tomorrow and make the best out of this weekend.”

Leclerc has twice been a polesitter at the Bahrain International Circuit, converting his 2022 pole to his third of five grands prix victories so far.

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