Lewis Hamilton has described Mercedes’ W14 Formula 1 car as “average” and “not alive” after finishing a distant seventh in the first qualifying session of the 2023 season in Bahrain.
Mercedes were hopeful of bouncing back to regular race-winning contention in 2023 after being restricted to a single victory last year, but Hamilton and team-mate George Russell were out of contention for pole position on the first Saturday of the season at the Sakhir circuit.
The Mercedes drivers were six tenths of a second adrift of the time set by Max Verstappen for pole position in Bahrain, and slower than the fifth-placed Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso, with Russell starting narrowly ahead of Hamilton in P6.
Having openly questioned the wisdom of Mercedes’ car concept earlier this weekend, Hamilton revealed that he expected the team to be considerably further behind after Friday practice running.
And the seven-time World Champion has admitted that the car did not feel good on track in qualifying after hoping a breakthrough had been made in Saturday’s final practice session.
He told media in Bahrain: “I woke up this morning thinking we were going to be a lot further behind, so the fact that we’re even getting into Q3 is great.
“A lot of great work happened overnight. All the engineers back at the factory and here did a great job and we made a step forward today so the car was getting much, much more alive this morning and all of a sudden we were in a different place than we were the day before.
“But when we got to qualifying, for me the car just didn’t feel alive. It felt kind of average.
“I think, with the direction I’ve gone with my setup, I’m hoping it works better for tomorrow. I’ve tried to set it up for tomorrow, but that made it a little bit difficult in qualifying.”
Despite a disappointing qualifying result, Mercedes appear to start 2023 from a more stable platform than last season after being blighted by porpoising throughout 2022.
And Hamilton has urged his team to keep pushing to bridge the gap to the leaders.
He added: “On a single lap, six tenths you can catch up. We were six tenths behind, I think, last year at this time but we had bouncing and all sorts of things.
“So it’s not an impossible mountain to climb, so that’s a positive and I know everyone back at the factory is going to be working so hard.
“We’ve just got to focus and push like never before.”