Mercedes feel pre-season perception of them in Bahrain was ‘overly gloomy’
After doubts surrounding their pace in pre-season testing, Mercedes believe the reporting around the placing of the W14 in the pecking order has been “overly gloomy”, according to Sky Sports’ Craig Slater.
A troubled second day of testing in Bahrain in particular saw Mercedes have an unexpected loss of downforce that led to a gathering of senior figures at the team, before they bounced back with a more productive final day in Sakhir.
The team confirmed the problem of porpoising – the bouncing effect which plagued their 2022 challenger last year – has been all but eliminated from their car this time around, but it is not yet known how they will match up to those around them.
With Red Bull looking in ominous form over testing, it looks on the face of it to be a fight for second place on early evidence, though the true pace of all 10 teams will not be known until the cars drive around Bahrain in anger in free practice on Friday.
But despite George Russell admitting it will be “a bit of a stretch” to suggest the team will compete for victory in Bahrain this weekend, a senior team figure reportedly told Sky the bleak outlook painted is likely to be worse than the position in which the team actually finds itself come the weekend.
“What about Mercedes, a lot of doom and gloom in terms of the reporting of how they got on this week,” Slater said on Sky Sports F1’s 2023 season preview.
“I was speaking to a senior figure from the team today who said that it was overly gloomy, the assessment of where they’re at, saying: ‘Don’t forget, this is testing. We are developing a car not specifically for Bahrain, but to be the best car over the year. We have more parts that come. We expected based on Red Bull’s performance last year to have to start the season behind them, that is possibly – and they use the term possibly – where we will start.’
“And they also said but we do think we’re in a fight a good scrap with Aston Martin and with Ferrari for second place. That would put a much more positive spin on things if that is the case.”
Sky’s lead commentator David Croft then added: “Well, let’s say we hope so, for the sake of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell and everyone working at Brackley and Brixworth, but I’m not sure I saw evidence of that.
“In testing, the car looked draggy, it looked slow and it looked like someone was tugging away on a lead the rear wheels, on the second day every time Lewis Hamilton and George Russell went round a corner.
“It just didn’t look like a car that was going to set the season alight and [on] possibly starting behind Red Bull, I think they probably will start behind Red Bull and maybe a couple of others as well.”
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Former Mercedes simulator driver and current Sky pundit Anthony Davidson continued: “Well, it looked to me, like Crofty pointed out, [on the] second day in the afternoon, that’s when the car was at its worst.
“It was leaving lots of dark lines on the exit of Turn 8, I felt like a bit of frustration, desperation from Lewis in not having the grip there at the rear of the car that he wanted, but he wasn’t alone.
“There were other cars out there that struggled, but I was surprised to see the Mercedes struggle as much as it did.
“I feel like the worst was behind them after that afternoon in the second day – the third day looked a lot better.
“It looked more like the car that we saw at the tail end of last year, and that’s where I expect them to be rolling into this season, about that performance they had at the end of last year.”
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