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F1 Testing | Mercedes left with work to do after a "not ideal start"

Mercedes reckoned they are “quite a way behind” on their pre-season Formula 1 test programme and “not happy” with the car’s performance after a difficult opening day

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F1 Testing | Mercedes left with work to do after a "not ideal start"
Fuente imagen: Mercedes F1

Friday the 12th at the Bahrain International Circuit, it was the back-to-business for drivers and teams, as they were returning to the competition after a three-months hiatus, in the form of three-days testing sessions.

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton left the 2020 season with the aureole of the seven-times world champions, looking all mighty and ultra favourites in regard of a fresh bid to the title, ahead of the 2021 season. But for the perfectly-oiled machine that the team from Brackley usually is, the first day of testing was everything but business as usual.

Valtteri Bottas encountered during the morning shift, a gear shift issue which cause is yet to be determined, and which forced the Finn to park his W12 for hours, while waiting for his broken gearbox to be replaced. Bottas ultimately returned to the track to complete systems checks and aerodynamic correlation runs, and ended with just six laps from the first four hours of the day.

In the afternoon, his teammate Lewis Hamilton managed to achieve 42 laps, as his run was disrupted by a pedal adjustment, changes in his car’s balance, and a very crippling sandstorm.

Contemplating his team’s runs in this first day of testing, Andrew Shovlin — Mercedes Mercedes trackside engineering director — admitted:

It’s been a poor start to the season from us today

We lost more or less the whole morning with Valtteri with a gearbox problem and our workload over lunch meant we were late joining the afternoon session with Lewis.”

Once we got running it was clear we didn’t have the car in the right balance window and while we made some progress during the day, we’re not happy with how the car is performing and it’s pretty clear we have some work to do.

Despite having lost valuable hours on their test programme, Shovlin is confident that the team is capable of recovering the lost ground, with the two remaining days of testing.

We’re quite a way behind on our test programme and need to find a bit of balance and speed but we have two days left and every opportunity to recover the situation.”

Lewis Hamilton’s assessment was that despite the many issues encountered, the team was still doing a great job at finding the causes and ironing everything out:

We had that mishap in the morning which was very unfortunate for Valtteri in terms of losing time on track and the team is working hard to try and understand what that was” the Briton said.

I think they did a great job to turn the car around."
We just had a good debrief and we’ll keep working away."

The seven-times world champion said how unusual it was for him to have to drive with such sandy conditions, and the impact of such weather on the tyre’s lifespan and performance.

I’ve never seen a sandstorm come through here before in all the years that I’ve driven at this circuit.

The sand was moving like rain would move. Having sand on the tyres isn’t good for their longevity and getting consistency on long runs is difficult."

Over a single lap it isn’t the worst, but you need lots of laps at this time of year to get data.

Hamilton will drive the car on Saturday morning before Bottas takes over in the afternoon.

Valtteri Bottas has effectively lost one-third of his preseason allowance, as testing is taking place over just three days this year.

In the end, the Finn also reflected on a session that was by his own admission, an experience he was, as a mercedes driver, unfamiliar with:

A total of six laps for me, all with aero rakes on the car so not much running today and not an ideal start.” 

In recent years things have been pretty much bulletproof so it’s not a familiar experience.


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