‘I don’t think we’re capable’: Are Toto Wolff and Mercedes sandbagging again?

Mercedes will be looking to return to winning ways this season after struggling to a third-place finish last year.

Mercedes started the new era of Formula 1 poorly last year, as the team were haunted by a porpoising issue and lack of performance which saw them struggle to even lay a glove on Ferrari and Red Bull.

Towards the end of the season, upgrades applied to the W13 saw it become more competitive, with George Russell picking up the team’s only win of the season in Brazil.

Heading into pre-season in Bahrain, the team would have been hoping for a smooth three days that would give them hope going into the first race of the season.

Unfortunately for the team, this has not been the case, with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell so far being unable to set the lap times of Ferrari and Red Bull, although this could be down to the type of tests they are completing.

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Mercedes’ Friday was cut short as Russell experienced a hydraulic failure, similar to the issue that Hamilton has at last season’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

With pre-season testing almost over, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has claimed that while his team expect to be competitive this year, they are currently not on the level of Ferrari and Red Bull.

“Red Bull is fast, but so is Ferrari, because they easily set a fast lap, a bit like last year. The level is very high with these two teams,” the Austrian told Sky Italia.

“Our goal must be to fight for the championship, but what we see today doesn’t make me optimistic. I don’t think we are capable of going as fast as Red Bull and Ferrari, we have to be realistic.

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“What is certain is that we are a great team that can develop quickly. We need to understand and analyse the data. We have everything it takes to be competitive.”

One piece of good news for Mercedes following pre-season testing is that it appears as if their porpoising issues are a thing of the past, with the W14 not bouncing down the straights as it was last year.

George Russell has admitted that he is content with the team’s current issues, as they are solvable and do not leave the team panicking and scrambling for solutions like they were during last season’s tests.