Lewis Hamilton says that Mercedes is facing an uphill battle in F1’s new era and may not be competitive from the start of the season.
Hamilton was in the car in the morning session on the final day of testing in Bahrain and said the team still had plenty of work to do to address its issues.
The seven-time champion admitted that there was still missing pace versus rivals and even suggested that it could be just the fourth-fastest team next weekend.
“We’ve got through the test programme, we’ve had decent reliability which has been positive. I think everyone is struggling on this bumpy track. We come out of it knowing that we still have a lot of work to do.
“There’s a confidence that we can always work through whatever problem is facing but at the moment we’re not the quickest. Ferrari look to be quickest then Red Bull then maybe us, maybe McLaren but we’re not currently at the top.”
Porpoising has been a key issue facing all of the teams during winter testing but it has been a particular problem for Mercedes so far.
Both Hamilton and Russell have been experiencing some of the worst of it in Sakhir and despite upgrades to the floor during the final test, the team continues to suffer massively from the problem.
Hamilton suggested that Mercedes was one of the teams that has still not dealt with the issue enough to be confident heading into the first race weekend of the 2022 season.
“At the moment for us, that’s one of our weaknesses, but I’ve seen other people also experiencing it and that’s not great. [It’s] definitely a hindrance at the moment
“I hope somehow we’re able to fix these things so we can realise the true potential of these cars.”
Hamilton notched up 78 laps in the morning session during race simluations as planned for Mercedes. The team’s brought a radical new slim sidepod design, and has had no cooling or reliability issues, so hasn’t lost out on running so far this season. However, Hamilton says that he doesn’t think that the car is among the quickest and that the team is in a weaker position than 12 months ago.
“It’s not as good as last year. I think we have far bigger challenges this time and they’re not one week turn around, I think that would take a little bit longer. But from what I’m told, we have a considerable amount of pace to find.
“I think 2022’s car regulations have meant everyone’s sliding around and we all seem to have a little bit less grip than before.”
The Mercedes driver was also critical of Pirelli’s tyres for the 2022 season.
There has been a growing sentiment in the paddock that the tyres for the new season, along with the extra weight of the cars, could impact the races negatively through excessive thermal degredation.
After completing a long run in the morning, Hamilton said that the ’22 rubber made things a lot more difficult but that following another car could be better than last season.
“The tyres are worse this year. On the long run, it’s physically a lot easier, for me that’s what I found just then. But the positives, so far following behind another car looks a little bit better which is I think hopefully the right direction.
“I hope we can maybe get some better tyres at some stage. Or maybe they work better in places not so hot maybe. But yeah, I’m sure the car will progress through the year and get to a better place.”