Mercedes fears it won’t be quick at Imola
Mercedes are worried that they will not be able to take on Red Bull at the next two races at Imola and Portimao, despite its Bahrain Grand Prix win. Sir Lewis Hamilton managed to turn the tide after his main rival Max Verstappen, with an aggressive strategy and strong tyre management just being enough to keep his rival at bay.
While Mercedes came out on top it believes that the characteristics of the Sakhir Circuit played to its favourites, however, believes that Imola and Portimao will be better for Red Bul.
In its post-weekend de-brief, director of trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin said: “I don’t think we’re good enough in the high-speed, and there’s plenty of that in Imola and in Portimao, and that’s one area where they’ve got an advantage on us at the moment.
“Bahrain’s quite an outlier circuit – it’s very hard on the rear tyres, and it’s been really windy here. We’ve had 30/40 km/h wind, which is pretty much the upper end of what you’d see in a normal race season.” Shovlin says Bahrain was not their best track, but believes they had a decent car by the end, believing the Red Bull works really well and that Mercedes will find circuits that suit them.
The German manufacturer has accepted it is on the back foot against Red Bull at the moment, but still feels that there is potential with the W12 to close down any deficit it has. Shovlin says when you are developing a car there was a lot of areas to be exploited, and he believes they haven’t delivered everything yet.
Adding “With those circuits, there’s elements that I think will move us in the right direction. We have struggled with the rear end here in Bahrain and those circuits are a bit easier in that regard. But high-speed is something we wouldn’t be naive in thinking that’s going to be strength of ours at those tracks.”
Hamilton himself thinks that while Mercedes is competitive in races, Red Bull is currently in another class during qualifying. Saying “I think Red Bull’s pace is incredibly strong, as you could see We can’t match them in qualifying right now. That’s a big, big step for us but obviously, I thought we could get closer in the race – but that was a little bit too close for my liking.”
Red Bull putting on ‘as much performance as possible’
Red Bull has announced they will be putting on ‘as much performance as possible’ for the Emilia-Romanaga Grand Prix, following its strong performance in Bahrain. Although Sir Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes beat them to victory, the team believes its pace in Sakhir has already got its updates planned for Imola.
Mercedes have already said they believe Red Bull has the edge, and their analysis shows that the Red Bull has no weaknesses compared to the W12,
Chief engineer Paul Monaghan told Mortorsport.com, “Some developments are already in the pipeline for Imola, more for subsequent races, so it’s now a two-pronged fight.”
“We need this car to be put down on the ground and run and give us no hiccups. We will put as much performance onto the car as we possibly can by Imola. Our destiny is in our control and we can’t influence what Mercedes, McLaren, Ferrari and everybody else want to do. So we’ve got to remain focused.”
Verstappen was especially quick in high-speed sections of the Bahrain track last weekend, but despite on paper looking good Red Bull still believes it doesn’t know where it stands against Mercedes.
Monaghan added: “We’ve identified some areas where the car can be improved and we concentrate on those. We can’t influence what the others do, so we’ve got to develop it, we’ve got to make it bulletproof.”
The gap between the two has been small this year and Red Bull are going to continue to push for more performance from the car. It knows that it is going to be a long season.
Perez admits he is struggling to adapt
Sergio Perez admits he is having to adjust his driving style to adapt to his Red Bull car. In qualifying in Bahrain, he struggled in Q2 on the medium tyres to qualify eleventh, before an engine issue on the formation lap saw him forced to start from the pit lane.
Following qualifying motorsport advisor Helmut Marko suggested that the Mexican was losing out to teammate Max Verstappen in a couple of places at Sakhir in qualifying, notably Turn One. However, Perez said the time he loses in those corners was negative and wind direction played its part making progression not easy.
He told Motorsport.com. “But here the way the wind is changing, and given that you get just a single lap, it hasn’t been easy to make that progression. The wind is changing all the time, but we can see that progression has been made.”
“There are some specific problems related to the way that I’m driving the car, I have to adjust my driving to the car. Firstly I need to make sure that I’m driving the way the car needs to be driven, and then work on that. But it’s taking me a while, because it’s very different to what I’m used to.”
However, he says he was encouraged by his strong race pace as he attempted to recover from the pit lane. Perez believes they can be pretty strong when everything comes together, saying Red Bull needs to d get the pace done properly, and it should be pretty good.
Adding “My race never settled down. I lack laps, and you are against the time all the time in that regard. But I enjoyed the understanding with the car, we are starting to feel one another a bit more, so in that regard I’m pleased. I was pleased just by the fact that we managed to get those kilometres under my belt. Missing Q3 really delayed our progression.”
Reasons for optimism at Williams
Despite not scoring a point since 2019, Williams drivers George Russell and Nicolas Latifi believe the opening Bahrain Grand Prix gives them optimism. The team over the past fortnight appears to have made a step forwards, with the Englishman getting through to Q2 in qualifying and finishing fourteenth in the race.
Russell told reporters, “I think it was a pretty well-executed race, to be honest. I think we toughed it out one lap too many in the middle stint – that’s when I had that little battle with Kimi [Raikkonen] – you know what it’s like when he’s on fresher tyres and we lost three or four seconds or so due to that, which was a bit unfortunate, but it wouldn’t have changed our outcome.”
He says given the pace and conditions it was probably the best they could expect. The team has already said they are expecting a ‘yo-yo season’, with Russell believing that the weekend was the ‘worst-case scenario.’
Russell added, “think given the pace of the car, given the conditions, I think it was a very well-executed weekend and that was probably the maximum we could have expected. As I said, it’s going to be a bit of a yo-yo season, and I do think this is probably the worst-case scenario so fingers cross it gets better from here.”
Russell says that Imola could be suited to the Williams, saying they were at different ends of the extremes.
Although Russell had a competitive season-opener on Sunday, his teammate Nicholas Latifi was hit by a reliability issue that eventually forced his retirement, but not before some encouraging signs.
Latifi added, “Straight away from the first laps, even on the laps to the grid, I felt like we were getting some quite big oscillations in the engine on power and it seems like we had a suspected boost leak which is why we had to retire in the end.”
The Canadian says he was surprised by how the car felt because he was expecting something more tricky to handle.
Floor damage hurts Ricciardo’s Bahrain performance
McLaren has revealed that floor damage at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix harmed Daniel Ricciardo’s performance. The Australian qualified sixth for his debut with the Woking team, however dropped to seventh finishing two places behind teammate Lando Norris.
A disappointed Ricciardo said after the race that he was hoping his lack of pace had been caused by damage to this car. Saying “I felt like I got slower as the race went on. So I felt like the first stint on the soft I was hanging with Lando and Charles [Leclerc] more or less but then with the medium they pulled away a bit and then the hard even more, so I felt like I kind of degraded as the race went on.
“But again if I’m not there yet with pace over the course of 50 laps it’s just you know that gap is going to grow so it could just be a result of that. I kind of hope I have damage, maybe it explains some of the some of the pace.”
The team’s post-race inspection revealed that Ricciardo’s floor was damage was the result of contact with the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly, resulting in “considerable” downforce loss.
Team boss Andreas Seidl in a statement on Monday, “Post-race we found damage to Daniel’s floor from the impact of Pierre running into the back of his car at the beginning of the race. The level of damage cost a considerable amount of downforce.
“Despite the performance loss Daniel used his experience to cope with the issues and score important points for the team. We now look forward to the next race.”
Ricciardo admitted he had not felt the impact from Gasly’s car at the start of the race. Adding “To be honest, I didn’t, no. I heard he had damage so I only saw him at the end of the race and said ‘Oh what happened?’ and he goes ‘I ran into the back of you’. So I had no idea but yeah, if my floor looks destroyed then I’ll probably sleep better tonight.”
Norris “made the next step” – Seidl
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl believes Lando Norris’ fourth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix is proof he has “made the next step” ahead of his third season. The Englishman started Sunday’s race seventh behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo, before driving a measured race to finish fourth.
Seidl says as Norris starts his third season in the sport, Seidl believes orris has put the lessons he learned in the past to good use, hailing his “very controlled” race. He told Motorsport.com, “I think we have seen all weekend, especially in qualifying and the race, that Lando made the next step. It’s something we ought to expect from a young driver, especially in his first years, to make these steps because that’s how you become a top guy in this sport.”
“It was great to see how he pulled it off because it really was a very controlled race from his side. He pushed when he had to push and he controlled the race when he was in a position to control it.”
Norris was himself satisfied with his performance, saying he was better in the area he wasn’t a few years ago. Seidl agreed, believing that progress is down to the Briton’s increased confidence and experience.
the German explained, “If I look at the way he works together with his engineers, how he communicates during a practice session, during qualifying, during the race, under stress, you simply see he was building up the experience and the confidence over the last two years.”
“Now he implements again everything digested over winter and he has learned from himself, and that results in the lap times and the performance in the race.” For Seidl the other thing which stood out was the tyre management.
McLaren left Bahrain in third in the constructors championship, which Seidl believes is encouraging for the rest of the season.