Mercedes admit ‘fuel load’ offers ‘scope’ for rivals to hit back in Bahrain

Mercedes "not getting carried away" despite 1-2 finish in FP2 at F1 Bahrain Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain,
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W15. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd…

Mercedes have conceded that “there is plenty of scope” for rivals to recover against them during Friday qualifying at the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Eyebrows were raised as Lewis Hamilton went fastest in the second practice session on Thursday, ahead of teammate George Russell.

It was an immediate injection of belief and hope for a team who truly needed it, after two years of underperformance.

But Mercedes admit that their rivals have the ability to change the pecking order in qualifying on Friday.

Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin reacted to their stunning Thursday performance: "Following the test we were most concerned about our single lap pace.

“We had both drivers in the simulator before returning here. From the running [Thursday], it looks like we have improved.

“We're certainly not getting carried away, as there is plenty of scope within power unit modes and fuel loads for several cars to find a chunk of time before [Friday].

“It's encouraging though that the picture we had last week seems to have improved.

"The long run data also looks close. Max Verstappen is still comfortably out front, as we saw last week, but behind him it's going to be a tight battle for the remaining podium spots.

“We know we’ve got plenty to fine tune on the balance. It's still early days with the W15, and we're learning how to get lap-time out of it with each run, but it's already feeling very different to the last two years that we have been here."

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Sakhir, Bahrain, Practice
Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 1,…

Hamilton said: "It was very windy in FP1, and the track was very different to during the test.

“We didn’t know exactly where we would stack up against everyone else, but we had a positive FP2 session.

“The car was feeling good, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We know there is more to extract, and our long run pace isn’t in the fight with the Red Bulls.

"Overall though, I’m feeling much happier with the car than last year. We’ve made some good improvements and it feels much more like a race car.

“It’s a really good platform for us to build from. We just need to keep our heads down and keep chasing."

Russell added: "We’re not going to get carried away after one day of practice.

“Our qualifying pace did look strong. We made some changes from the test and the improvement did exceed our expectations.

“But ultimately our long run pace is where it counts. Verstappen looked comfortably quickest, and it was very tight with the Ferraris, the McLarens, and the Aston Martins. So we’ve likely got a real fight on our hands there.”

Red Bull’s Verstappen, who was P6 in FP2, reacted: “The practice sessions were not perfect but we weren’t too far off.

“The long runs were quite decent, and I think we can always do a little better on those laps.

“There were a few small balance issues that we will work on but I am quite happy with everything with the car overall.

“[Thursday] was just about trying to find that sweet spot and getting the perfect balance in the car.

“Performing well in qualifying is important, so we will make sure the car is in good shape ahead of tomorrow.

“I’m not too worried about the gap to P1 and we aren’t looking too much at the others and are just focusing on ourselves at the moment.

“It’s going to be very close in qualifying but we will try and work a bit more and fight for pole [on Friday].”

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