Mercedes face challenges in finding pace
Sir Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes face the challenge of finding more pace from their new car ahead of next week’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. The German manufacturer had a complicated test caused by a gearbox problem leaving them playing catch up on mileage from the first morning while the W12 was not yet balanced to the drivers’ liking.
Hamilton to F1 after the final day, admitting, “I’ve never been a massive fan of testing; I just love racing. On the other end, it might have been good to have had more days. It’s probably the only time I’d have ever asked for more days!”
The seven-times champion had two uncharacteristic spins in the car over the weekend and said that “globally through the lap” the W12 was not yet performing to expectations.
In a video posted by Mercedes Hamilton said “It does appear we are perhaps not quick enough at the moment, but I have every faith in the team. We love challenges and this definitely is a challenge for us with the [rule] changes.”
“A couple of spins which are rare for me, but generally have been unhappy with the balance of the car and struggled with it. But nonetheless the car is still in one piece and we still got through the programme.”
Mercedes decided not to use there filming the day before the test, today they returned to shakedown the car but the regulations limited to 100km and must be completed on bespoke tyres that are not raced in 2021. The world champions haven’t always been the fastest in testing.
Arriving in Melbourne in 2019, Ferrari appeared to have ‘won’ the winter battle, but Mercedes then dominated the first race.
Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes’ trackside engineering director, said: “We’ve made a bit of progress with the balance on higher fuel and the car was more predictable but we can see from the data we’ve collected over the last few days that on race pace, we’re not as quick as Red Bull.”
“no one can come close” to Walker – Hamilton
Sir Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to legendary commentary Murray Walker following his death on Saturday, saying “no one can come close”. On Saturday the BRDC announced the death of the sports most famous broadcasters and journalists aged ninety-seven.
Walker’s career spanned seventy years, although he retired from full-time commentary at the end of 2001. He was the lead commentator for the English world for fifty years, thirty of them full time and built a reparation as the voice of F1.
Writing on Instagram when the news broke on Saturday the seven-times champion, wrote, “so sad to hear of Murray’s passing. I remember growing up hearing your voice over the races. You made the sport so much more exciting and captivating. The iconic voice of our sport and a great man, thank you for all you did, you will never be forgotten. Rest in peace.”
Asked for his memories of Walker during the FIA press conference on Sunday in Bahrain, Hamilton explained the role he played in his enjoyment of watching F1 and his contribution to the series.
Hamilton said, “I just remember hearing this iconic voice, growing up watching all the Grands Prix. He really made the sport exciting. There’s been no-one like him that I’ve seen on TV, that even without watching the TV, if you’re out in the room and you hear him you’re excited, it makes you want to run back in and see what’s happening.”
The Englishman said that Walker is very much loved he think around the world and his contribution was huge to the sport. Hamilton who grew up watching Walker says that no one can come close.
Adding, “So it’s naturally sad to hear his passing, but I think he’s had a long, great life. I hope and pray that I have the opportunity to live a long life like he has.”
Read more on Murray Walker’s life
Best ever pre-season test for Red Bull
Red Bull has described the Sakhir Pre-Season test as the best it has ever had, but it still thinks rival Mercedes has more “up its sleeve”. The Austrian owned team appears to be the favourite following the strong pace and reliability over the weekend, in contrast to the difficulties that Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas encountered.
However, the general option from most fans and within the paddock, is that Red Bull is coming out of testing in pretty good shape, the team is far from complacent about things. It knows Mercedes has a history of bouncing back from difficulties and drawing strength from stumbles.
Speaking to RTL, motorsport advisor Helmut Marko is very upbeat about his team’s situation but does not think Mercedes are in as bad a situation as some claim. Saying “That was certainly the best test since Red Bull Racing came into existence, everything worked right from the start.”
“But we know that Mercedes is the favourite, and I assume that they drove with much more fuel than we did. The fact that they didn’t really align with others in terms of fuel load, that already shows that they must have a lot of confidence. So we assume they still have a lot up their sleeves.”
Marko says Mercedes is the favourite and Red Bull are the best challengers this season, with McLaren a bit out of touch for the team with the midfield closer together.
This season, Red Bull has targeted their aero anomalies which left both Verstappen and Alex Albon battling its nature sometimes. Marko thinks that Red Bull has produced exactly what it wanted, which should leave Verstappen and Perez better able to push things to the limit.
Saying “Compared to Mercedes, our car definitely seems calmer. Of course, that makes it easier for a driver. It’s predictable, and you can work better at the limit. But that was also the goal.”
Vettel convinced Mercedes can bounce back
Sebastian Vettel believes Mercedes will bounce back from its pre-season testing woes by the first race, despite lacking the “mileage miracle” it had in recent years.
The seven-times champions had a difficult weekend in Bahrain ahead of next weekends opening race, with both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas having reliability issues and difficulties for both its drivers in finding a good balance left it on the back foot.
At the end of the test, Mercedes had completed the fewest laps of all teams, with its drivers having logged just 1645km over the three days. That compares with AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo putting in 2284km each, and Red Bull notching up 1997km.
In recent years, Mercedes has been topping the mileage sheet in testing and have proved reliable in terms of pre-season tests over recent years, as it often racked up near-perfect preparations.
Despite Mercedes looking to be behind Red Bull right now, Vettel has no doubts that the German car manufacturer will be back in the fight by the first race later this month. Vettel said, “It’s probably fair to say that Mercedes didn’t have the mileage miracle that they had in the last years.”
The four-times champion is convinced that the German car manufacturer should not be discounted despite its difficult start to winter testing. Williams driver George Russell, who is a Mercedes junior driver, equally has no doubts that it is not in as bad a situation as some are suggesting.
Saying “I’ve not really looked at the guys at the top, but I’ve asked them how it’s going. They are Mercedes. They are going to be fine. I am pretty confident on that.”
Vettel’s own reliability issues were caused by parts Aston Martin buys from Mercedes, he suggested however it could have been a problem with how the power unit was installed by the team. But it was too early to say whether it was Mercedes parts or the team which caused the issue.
McLaren more confident this year – Norris
Lando Norris insists McLaren’s pre-season test wasn’t “perfect”, but says the team are going into the new season with even more confidence than last year after an encouraging three days in Bahrain.
Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, stated that “it’s great to see McLaren looking strong” – with the testing form hinting they have not just built on third place last year, but also may have closed in on Mercedes and Red Bull.
The team go into the new season off the back of there best season since Hamilton left the team. This year much of the teams focus on the return to Mercedes engines, which made McLaren weary of being overtaking by the likes of Alpine and Alpha Tauri.
But while they weren’t particularly high on the timesheets, McLaren topped two of the three lunchtime sessions enjoyed a smooth and inconspicuously fast test to suggest they are the midfield team to beat once the season begins on March 28 at the same Bahrain circuit.
Norris told Sky Sports, “It’s difficult to know what everyone’s doing but we can be confident, we have a decent car. We have things to work on for sure, not everything’s perfect, but I’m happy and excited to get started.”
“I think it’s gone well. I want to say we’re maybe a little more confident than we were last year. In terms of starting off with a good step and on the right foot, I think we’ve managed to do that and we have some good things to work on when we come back in two weeks.”
The other thing McLaren has spent its development tokens on was a new defuse which showed strong pace on the race runs, which could put them in pole position to take wins if Mercedes and Red Bull run into difficulties this year.
Speaking about seven-time world champions Mercedes and their struggle to start F1 2021, Norris admitted that the car looked “nothing special” and said the team didn’t look “quite as comfortable”.
Why Schumacher requested MSC as his abbreviation
Mick Schumacher says he requested that Formula One give him the abbreviation ‘MSC’ on timing screens like his father Michael. The TV graphics show the first three letters of the driver’s surname, however, when Mick’s uncle Ralf made his debut in 1997, his father had raced as ‘MSC’ to distinguish from his brother.
Schumacher asked F1 if he could adopt his is father’s abbreviation for this season, which has been how his name has appeared on the timing screens for preseason testing in Bahrain this week.
Schumacher said “I wanted ‘MSC’. It’s an emotional bond I have to it. I think it’s quite nice for everybody watching the timing screens and seeing ‘MSC’ back on the screens as well.”
Mick was with his father when he suffered serious head injuries in the French resort of Grenoble in 2013.
Schumacher is making his F1 debut in a year when it has just three days of testing, down from six last year and eight in 2019. Despite that, the German said he would be ready to race tomorrow if he had to.
Looking ahead to Bahrain, he said, “The race can’t come quick enough, I’m really looking forward to the season. I would love to drive every day. I could put another eight days in and just go straight into the race weekend.”
Williams’s ‘yo-yo’ concept for 2021
Williams is bracing itself for an up-and-down season after electing for a peaky aero platform on its car that could leave it exposed when the wind picks up. The team believes going down this route will allow George Russell and Nicholas Latifi to shine on the calmer days to pick up constructors’ championship points.
Russell says that the team’s best chance of moving up the order is when things go right rather than having a more consistent platform. Explaining “We’ve opted to go down a bit of a route to give more downforce at the expense o being a bit more sensitive.”
“Ultimately, we recognised that we only need a couple of [good outings], and if we were consistently at a set pace, as we probably were last year, we consistently won’t be scoring points.” He believes the team only needs to score in a couple of races to ensure it doesn’t finish bottom of the constructors.
Russell says the aero characteristics of the car, and in particular, its wind sensitivity, were what hurt the team over the gusty Bahrain test weekend. Williams was aware before the test that the car was incredibly sensitive to the wind, with the Englishman believing it probably brought the worst out of the car.
While the Bahrain test was a bit of a struggle at times, Russell says he takes heart from the performance of the car when occasionally the conditions were more settled. He believes that when they go to more enclosed circuits like Imola the car can excel, with one of its strengths being cornering speed.
The choice of aero concept means the team faces a great deal of variation in Williams’ form in 2021, Russell has faith the tactic will pay off over the course of the full campaign.
Adding, “For us maybe it’s a bit more extreme than it has been the last two seasons, but equally we could be sitting here at the end of the season, and saying, you know, we were very, very quick in ten races, very, very slow in the remaining thirteen.”