george russell helmet cockpit Mercedes w13 bahrain 2022 FP1 FP2 practice

Russell: We’re struggling with no pace at the moment

george russell helmet cockpit Mercedes w13 bahrain 2022 FP1 FP2 practice

Mercedes were alarmingly off the pace during the first day of practice for the Bahrain Grand Prix Formula 1 season-opener on Friday, adding to their woes is that both Lewis Hamilton and new teammate George Russell saw no quick fix.

Hamilton was ninth in the second session at Sakhir, with Russell fourth. The pair were seventh and fourth respectively in the opening practice.

Red Bull’s world champion Max Verstappen topped the timesheets with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz second and third in practice two.

On his first Grand Prix weekend as a fully-fledged Mercedes driver (unlike his one race cameo at the same venue in 2020) Russell was faced with a car, in the W13, that was by no means plug-and-play.

He said: “It’s all about lap time and we’re certainly not where we want to be. I think we’ve made a bit of progress solving some issues, but the pace just is not there at all at the moment.

“We’re both struggling a bit with the car and we’re a long way off the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari, even the likes of AlphaTauri. Alfa Romeo are seemingly on our pace or even quicker. So we’ve got a bit of work to do,” explained George.

george russell helmet cockpit Mercedes w13 bahrain 2022 FP1 FP2 practice

Russell: We’re truly throwing everything at it at the moment to try and unlock the potential

“We think the potential is there but we’re just really struggling to tap into it and everything we try is maybe one step forward and two steps back. It is going to take time. We all hoped we could have solved it for this weekend but how things stand at the moment we aren’t in the fight.

“We’ve got lots of work ahead of us to get the car where we want it but if any team can, we can. It was windier today than last week, you’re running at different times of the day, plus we’re trying lots of things on the car to improve performance, so there’s so many factors for us to weigh up,” added the 24-year-old.

Teammate Hamilton said the problems Mercedes had experienced in the past at the start of a season were small in comparison: “Everything we do to try and kind of fix it doesn’t really change that. It appears that it is probably going to be a more longer-term fix, so nothing in the short term.”

Mercedes were suspected of sandbagging in the final test, but increasingly it appears that this is no ruse but rather an issue that has plagued their package and, coincidentally or not, their customer teams Williams, Aston Martin and McLaren; all three Merc-powered outfits enduring a below-par day in Bahrain today.

Five of the six cars were anchored to the bottom of the timesheets, only McLaren’s Lando Norris broke free by recording the 11th best time, albeit 1.3 seconds down on Verstappen’s top time

Mercedes’ trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin told Sky Sports the team, who have won the F1 constructors’ title for the past eight years, needed to unlock the real performance.

“On the single lap, we were (on a) one step softer tyre with the cars we’d like to compete with doing similar times so it’s pretty evident there’s something to do there … it does feel like we’ve got ground to catch up,” he said. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)