Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes accused of sandbagging at 2023 Bahrain GP

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have been accused of sandbagging at the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Heading into qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix, many fans were fearing the worst for Mercedes, with Q2 exits being predicted by some.

This was not the case at all however, as both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton shot to the top of the timing screens on a number of occasions, making it all the way to Q3.

Russell picked up where he left off from last season by outperforming Hamilton and setting a quicker time than the 38-year-old in Q3.

Hamilton managed to qualify in seventh with a 1:30:384 while Russell managed to squeeze into sixth place with a 1:30:340, proving that the Mercedes driver pairing are very equally matched.

READ: Charles Leclerc admits Ferrari are sandbagging as he sends Max Verstappen warning

Sky Sports pundit Sam Collins has now suggested that Mercedes may have been sandbagging and refusing to show their true speed during testing and practice.

Collins said that Lewis Hamilton was “as quick down the straights as the Ferraris and the Red Bulls” following qualifying, something which was certainly not true during pre-season.

Mercedes struggled to even lay a glove on Red Bull, Ferrari and Aston Martin during pre-season but from what has been seen during qualifying, the Silver Arrows may be more competitive than they initially appeared.

Ahead of the two Mercedes is Fernando Alonso, who followed up his stunning performances in practice to qualify in fifth, showing that Aston Martin’s pre-season form was not just down to other teams sandbagging.

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Ferrari have locked out the second row with Charles Leclerc leading Carlos Sainz, while Max Verstappen took pole position ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez as Red Bull fill the front row.

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Mercedes team principal has admitted that the W14 is currently not performing at its full potential, with upgrades set to be online for Mercedes when Formula 1 returns to Europe in a few races’ time that should see them become significantly quicker.

There has been speculation that Lewis Hamilton is stalling his contract talks with Mercedes, as he waits to see how competitive the team are before deciding his future.

Hamilton has quickly rejected these claims but will be relatively pleased none the less to see himself only 0.676s away from pole position in Bahrain despite having a vastly inferior car to Max Verstappen.