Hamilton concerned Mercedes is 'on the wrong track'


Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton expressed concerns that this team is going in the wrong direction, after a frustrating first day of practice for the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton wa sonly tenth quickest in FP1, over two seconds off the top time set by Red Bull's Sergio Perez, although he improved in FP2 to eighth and was only 0.6363s behind session pace setter Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin.

That's still a long way off what the team was hoping for and indeed expecting, as they seek to mount a recovery after a poor 2022 season by their own standards.

“I’m trying everything we can out there," Hamilton told the media in the paddock after the end of the evening session. "It is what it is, we just have to work at it.

"On the long run we’re quite close to Ferrari, it looks like Aston is second, then we’re between third or fourth," he acknowledged. "So we’re kind of where we are last year, or a little bit further behind."

Hamilton said the current state of affairs was hard to swallow after a long off-season winter development period.

“It’s difficult for everybody, and not where anyone at the team wants to be, or where everyone at the team deserves to be," he said.

"Everyone works so hard and really is so courageous and thoughtful in their process, but we’re just on the wrong track.

“We’ve got to continue to graft a way and find a way to get ourselves on the right track," he insisted. "But we’re a long way off the guys in front.”

Even so, Hamilton said that he "has to be hopeful" that the Mercedes squad could think its way out of their current despond.

“Do I believe we can close the gap at some stage? Yes," he said. "There was good progress through last year,

"But the gap wasn’t as big as it is now," he admitted. "I think it’s quite hard [to close the gap] with the concept we have.”

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W14. 03.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice Day

It's not just Hamilton who is struggling with the W14. George Russell was slower than his team mate and outside the top ten in both of today's sessions.

Trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin has defended Mercedes’ decision to persevere with its radical zero-pod concept for this year's car.

“The sidepods are a similar theme, but if you go and copy someone else you go backwards before you go forwards," he argued. “The process of looking at other cars, we’re doing that all the time.

"Trying to take any sort of initiatives that we can apply to ours for a gain, that’s happening constantly.

“In terms of the [zero sidepod] concept we’ll look at where we are this weekend, we’ll look at where we are in the early races," he continued. “We’ve got evolutions coming in terms of sidepod design.

George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. 03.03.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice Day

“The big focus for us was really just trying to add performance and get rid of that bouncing," he told Sky Sports F1 on Friday. "So that we’re able to run the car where we want to.

“It’s much, much smoother than what we had last year," he pointed out. "The porpoising was something that really held us back last year. If we’ve got a car that we’ve managed to eradicate that, we’ve got something that we can build and develop on.

“We’re still working on the balance, we haven’t really got that where we need it even though we had the three days, so there’s more to do."

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