Hamilton dice left Gasly questioning Mercedes

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, follows Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri. Bahrain, March 2022.

Social media image of Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, following Pierre Gasly, AlphaTauri. Bahrain, March 2022.

After battling with Lewis Hamilton during the Bahrain test, Pierre Gasly believes Mercedes are no longer as strong as they were.

Both drivers put on a show during the third and final day of pre-season testing as Hamilton and Gasly spent several laps going wheel-to-wheel, both drivers pulling multiple overtakes on the other.

Mercedes have won eight Constructors’ titles in succession, but with Formula 1 entering an all-new regulatory era the Silver Arrows did not look to be at that same record high standard in Bahrain.

Whether these struggles are genuine or an example of hiding performance has been hotly debated heading into the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, but it cannot be ignored Gasly held his own in that scrap with Hamilton despite driving an AlphaTauri car which has traditionally been a midfield runner.

So rather than AlphaTauri suddenly making gains, Gasly concludes Mercedes have in fact slipped back.

“I was kind of surprised to battle with Lewis,” he told reporters after day three of the Bahrain test.

“I think the conclusion is Mercedes probably doesn’t look as good as they were in the past.”

A key aim of these new regulations is to reduce the loss of performance a following car suffers behind a rival, thus allowing them to follow closer for longer and increase the chances of an overtake.

It was a positive sign then to see Hamilton and Gasly be able to stay so close to the other and overtake multiple times.

Asked if he felt an improvement when following Hamilton, Gasly confirmed he absolutely did.

“It was clearly better,” he said. “We overtook each other a couple of times, stayed close to each other. It was definitely an improvement, so I think racing should be quite fun this year.”

As for AlphaTauri’s season ahead, Gasly believes it will still be a case of battling in the midfield for himself and the team, although he is not sure where in that midfield they will start out.

“We had a pretty smooth test on our side,” he confirmed.

“We went through all the programme. We had a lot of question marks coming here. We got a couple of answers, a couple more question marks.

“But all in all, I think now we just need to sit down and take a couple of days to review everything we’ve done and try to put the puzzle together to come with the best car possible next weekend.

“There are a couple of missing pieces. Obviously it’s a new car so there is a lot of things to learn.

“But obviously there are still areas where we definitely need to improve for the season, but that’s part of the game – I think it’s the same thing for everyone.

“I just don’t really know where we stand in the midfield at the moment. We know we won’t be going for the Championship this season.

“We will find out next week, but I think we have a rough idea of where we are – we know we are in the midfield but still don’t know whether we are at the top or the bottom of the midfield.”

 

Gasly also became something of an internet sensation in Bahrain thanks to the onboard footage of his head rattling as his AlphaTauri AT03 bounced along the track, with ‘porpoising’ proving to be a feature of these new ground-effect cars early on.

For the normal person, it would have meant plenty of paracetamol and a trip to the dentist, but Gasly is made of stronger stuff.

Asked if he needed any painkillers after the bouncing, he said with a smile: “I’m strong, so I didn’t need any painkiller.

“The head was shaking a little bit after day one, but we went through it and I’m all good.”

 

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