Hamilton: Mercedes not ready to compete for wins

Mercedes have been off the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull during pre-season testing in Bahrain; Lewis Hamilton insists his team are not holding back performance ahead of next weekend’s season opener in Bahrain; watch every Grand Prix this season live on Sky Sports

Last Updated: 12/03/22 1:33pm

Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes are struggling ahead of the start of the new season

Lewis Hamilton is adamant that Mercedes will not be able to compete for wins at the start of the 2022 season, insisting the F1 world champions are facing “big challenges” and trailing Ferrari and Red Bull for pace.

Although Mercedes set the fastest time to start pre-season in Barcelona and turned heads at the start of this week’s final test with a radical new-look W13 car, they have been quiet in terms of notable lap times in Bahrain.

The Silver Arrows lack of performance has led many in the paddock – including Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz – to speculate as to whether they are holding back speed for the season-opening Bahrain GP on the same track, as they have done on several occasions during their record eight-year streak of constructors’ titles.

However, Hamilton says Mercedes are genuinely struggling to extract performance under the hugely altered design regulations for 2022.

“It is too early to have those kind of thoughts about the world championship, but at the moment I don’t think we will be competing for wins,” the seven-time champion stated after completing 78 laps on Saturday morning.

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Ted, Brundle, and Crofty talk about Hamilton’s struggle with porpoising during testing and if it could potentially hold Mercedes back going into the first race of the season.

Ted, Brundle, and Crofty talk about Hamilton’s struggle with porpoising during testing and if it could potentially hold Mercedes back going into the first race of the season.

“There is potential within our car to get us there. We’ve just got to learn to be able to extract it and fix some of the problems, which is what we’re working on.”

Mercedes have won the opening race of the season in each of the last three seasons.

But Hamilton added: “We have some hurdles to overcome and obviously next week we’ll get a much better showing of our pace, but I think people will be surprised, because people keep talking about whether we’re talking ourselves down or not, but it’s a bit different this year.”

Hamilton also, like many others this week, tipped Ferrari as the early favourites.

“We’re not the quickest at the moment. I think Ferrari look to be the quickest and perhaps Red Bull and then maybe us or McLaren – but we’re currently not at the top.”

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Ted, Brundle, and Crofty talk about Hamilton’s struggle with porpoising during testing and if it could potentially hold Mercedes back going into the first race of the season.

Ted, Brundle, and Crofty talk about Hamilton’s struggle with porpoising during testing and if it could potentially hold Mercedes back going into the first race of the season.

‘It feels a lot different’

Mercedes wowed the pit lane on the opening day in Bahrain with the radical ‘no-sidepod’ design of their W13, but the innovative look has yet to translate into speed at the Sakhir circuit.

Last year Mercedes looked off the pace as late as free practice at the opening race in Bahrain, before Hamilton went on to win, but the seven-time world champion insists things will not be the same this year.

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“No it feels a lot different,” he added. “It’s not as good. It’s not going to look as good as it did last year with the difficult session we had in practice and then switch over to the race.

“I think we have far bigger challenges this time and they’re not one-week turnarounds, I think they’ll take a little bit longer, but from what I’m told, we have a significant amount of pace to find.”

Gasly: Mercedes have work to do

During Hamilton’s time on track on Saturday morning, he engaged in a closely contested series of laps with the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly, a car that Mercedes would have expected to cruise past in seasons gone by.

Speaking alongside Hamilton on Saturday, Gasly agreed that Mercedes have work to do to compete with their rivals at the front of the grid.

Hamilton (left) and Pierre Gasly engaged in a closely contested battle for a few laps on Saturday

“I was quite surprised to be fighting with Lewis for a couple of laps,” Gasly said. “It was entertaining, it was interesting also to follow and get some data and feeling from following other cars.

“I could see Lewis was struggling as well and I can see they do have some work to be fighting right at the top.”

Despite his pessimism over Mercedes’ chances in the opening races of the season, which begins in Bahrain before the second race follows a week later in Saudi Arabia, Hamilton is confident his team can overcome their issues.

78 more laps for LH to end #F1Testing. ? Next time we’ll see Lewis on track is FP1 next week. pic.twitter.com/bOSV2Bt307

— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1)

March 12, 2022

“We’ve got through our test program, we’ve had decent reliability, which has been positive,” he said.

“I think everyone is struggling out on this bumpy track. We come out of it knowing that we still have a lot of work to do.

“There’s a confidence that we can always work through whatever problem that we’re facing, yes.”

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