Mercedes endured their worst pre-season test in the turbo-hybrid era of Formula One last weekend at Bahrain, with the Silver Arrows being hit by reliability issues and Sir Lewis Hamilton in particular struggling to get to grips with the W12.
Speaking after the test, which Red Bull looked very strong in, the Mercedes F1 Team said they believe the Milton Keynes-based team currently has the edge and they admitted that they are struggling with some issues which they “don’t have answers” to.
“We’re fortunate enough to have a lot of footage available to us and it was pretty evident from that that [our] car was handling poorly, and conversely the Red Bull, in fact, looked what we would call planted,” Mercedes’ motorsport strategy director James Vowles said.
“It [the Red Bull RB16B] was a very stable car, especially through the last sector of the lap. That’s a fair observation, it was visible to the outside and the lap times mirrored that as well.
“It’s also fair to say that we don’t have answers. There’s huge amounts of data available to us and now a long journey ahead to understand what was causing that,” he added.
Meanwhile, Andrew Shovlin, the Silver Arrows’ trackside engineering director, also admitted that their 2021 challenger was difficult to drive during the Bahrain test.
“Importantly, we could see that some of our competitors weren’t struggling in the same way as us, so we need to put quite a bit of focus on understanding why the rear end was a bit weak, how we can get it more stable and predictable, and that work’s going on now,” Shovlin said.
“Hopefully when we get to the race weekend, it won’t be so hard for the drivers, because they were having to work pretty hard to get the lap times that they were doing.”
“I would say Red Bull are ahead on performance. They’re the class act from the test. But it’s a test, it’s not a race and it’s one event out of 23 [grand prix to be contested in 2021],” he added.
Hamilton in particular struggled with the Mercedes W12, with him spinning the car twice and finding it difficult to generate competitive lap times around the Bahrain International Circuit.
Following the difficult test, Bottas joked that Mercedes were “sandbagging”.
Specifically, when asked by Ted Kravitz if pre-season testing had been “plain sailing” or if there is more work for Mercedes to do, Bottas replied: “Well, you know, we are sandbagging, always in testing, so that’s it.”