Mercedes came away from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix with a solid haul of points after benefiting from Red Bull’s double DNF.

Hamilton finished third ahead of new teammate George Russell at the Bahrain International Circuit but it didn’t tell the whole story.

Hamilton was running around 35 seconds behind eventual race winner Charles Leclerc before the late-race Safety Car caused by Pierre Gasly’s blazing AlphaTauri. 

The eight-time constructors’ champion appears to have taken a hit with its power unit as all Mercedes-powered teams struggled with straight-line speed performance in Bahrain.

Hamilton has played down his and Mercedes’ chances in Jeddah but is hopeful of further improvements.

“No, I don't think so,” Hamilton said when asked if Mercedes will go better this weekend. “But of course, we've learned a lot from this week. Their [Ferrari] straight-line speed as well as the Bulls were very quick in a straight line and their performance through corners is quite a bit different to us. 

“So the car was very hard to drive but it could always be worse. So I’m hoping for the next race we manage to find some improvements but it's a fundamental issue that’s going to take a little bit longer I think to fix.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff conceded after the race that thinking about the championship “seems a very long shot”.

“You can say how you manage expectations - if we would have come in last year third and fourth, it would have been very frustrating,” Wolff told Sky Sports on Sunday. “But this year, I think we are punching above our weight class. With the Red Bulls DNF-ing, third and fourth is a fantastic result.

“If you look at the pecking order [in Bahrain] it seems a very long shot to even think about being in contention for any of the championships. Realistically when you are third on the road you can’t think about winning it.”

Can Mercedes turn it around?

Mercedes finds itself in uncharted territory with it at its most uncompetitive position since the start of the hybrid era.

The eight-time constructors’ champions have often started seasons with the outright fastest package or a car to compete.

In 2021, Mercedes started the year as the second-best team behind Red Bull but were quick to turn it around by the middle part of the season.

By the close of the year, Mercedes was the team to beat with Hamilton taking a hat-trick of wins (should have been four without Abu Dhabi). 

Mercedes’ ability to develop during the season shouldn’t be underestimated, particularly when it did it so well in 2018 up against Ferrari and last year as previously mentioned.

With F1 set for a 23-race season, there’s plenty of time for Mercedes to catch up, particularly given it’s the start of a new era of regulations. 

As proven on Sunday, reliability is key at this stage of the season and racking up the points is very important.

Hamilton is right to play down Mercedes’ chances in Jeddah given its straight-line speed deficiency but come the middle of the season, it is likely to be a major force in the championship battle.