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Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle After Bahrain GP Struggles



Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle After Bahrain GP Struggles

Mercedes faces a daunting task after a challenging Bahrain Grand Prix weekend revealed the need for significant car alterations.

The Bahrain Grand Prix weekend has highlighted the need for Mercedes to make significant alterations and venture into unexplored territory with its car.

While the team has acknowledged its mistake in carrying over its 2022 car concept, there was a glimmer of hope for Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in qualifying, albeit a faint one. After struggling with pace on Friday, the team made overnight changes that resulted in a marked improvement, enabling the drivers to qualify in sixth and seventh positions, with Russell edging slightly ahead and trailing Max Verstappen’s pole position time by 0.632s.

This was achieved after addressing some of the high-speed cornering issues, according to Andrew Shovlin, the trackside engineering director.

Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle

Despite concerns from both drivers about their qualifying performance and the possibility of falling back into the midfield, the changes made by Mercedes allowed them to remain in the lead group, albeit at the slowest end of a now four-team bracket.

The team managed to avoid Hamilton’s worst fears of failing to reach Q3 and can take comfort in the expectation that the car will perform better in race trim. Hamilton expressed relief that the car felt better in FP3 and that they were able to qualify and stay in the fight.

He attributed the improvements to better balance, and both drivers continued to use the new lower-downforce rear wing, although the team did experiment with the testing specification wing during practice. Overall, Mercedes has very little to cling onto in what has been a challenging weekend.


Hamilton noted that the car had improved in terms of rear instability and traction limitations that were present during testing, although he believes this may still affect tire management during the race.

He acknowledged that while the car was better, there was still a general lack of downforce, particularly at the rear. When asked about the improvements made on Saturday, Hamilton responded that the changes were noticeable, but the team still has work to do to address the overall downforce issue.

Hamilton explained that the lack of downforce, particularly at the rear, was the reason why Mercedes couldn’t match the Red Bulls and Ferraris in terms of early power delivery and struggled with tire degradation. He added that the situation is similar to previous years, with the team having better rear end grip before last year.

However, Hamilton did note that he preferred the car’s performance in FP3 over qualifying, suggesting that the team may have opted for a set-up that prioritizes race pace over single-lap speed.

He remarked that the car felt much more responsive and that the team had made significant progress compared to the day before.

Hamilton added that despite the improvement in FP3, the car felt average during qualifying, which suggests that the set-up they chose may have prioritized race pace over qualifying speed. He expressed hope that their set-up would work better for the race.

Meanwhile, Russell also had a better Saturday than he expected after Friday’s practice. Like Hamilton, he also emphasized the team’s focus on race performance.


Russell highlighted the importance of the fact that the Mercedes W14 is a better package to work with than last year’s car, which had issues with porpoising and bouncing. Although the car’s ultimate potential may be uncertain, Mercedes has a better starting point to build upon.

Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle After Bahrain GP Struggles
Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle After Bahrain GP Struggles

He added that the team had expected to gain some performance overnight, but the progress made had exceeded their expectations. He further stated that the car felt good to drive, which puts them in a much better position than they were last year.

Russell concluded by saying that the team can now focus on improving overall performance, rather than spending a significant amount of time problem-solving.

Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle

Russell believed that Mercedes is in a good position to compete for P3 in the race, alongside Ferrari and Fernando Alonso. He also emphasized that his side of the garage put more emphasis on setting up the car for the race.

While Mercedes is still searching for the right direction with its car concept to achieve race-winning performance, Hamilton and Russell’s focus is on scoring decent points in Sunday’s race and minimizing any potential damage.

Although Wolff didn’t rule out the possibility of Mercedes winning the championship, it is apparent that the team’s timeline for turning its car into a competitive winner is more medium-term than short-term.

When asked about Hamilton’s chances of securing his record eighth drivers’ title, Wolff acknowledged that motor racing is unpredictable, and it’s difficult to predict what will happen this year. He added that there is a possibility that the team may find a silver bullet in the future that could unlock additional performance in the car.


However, he emphasized that the team’s focus is on the medium- and long-term goal of developing a car that can compete for an eighth championship.

Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle After Bahrain GP Struggles Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle After Bahrain GP Struggles Mercedes Faces Uphill Battle After Bahrain GP Struggles