Lewis Hamilton P9 in Bahrain but Mercedes warn he’ll have “strong pace”

Lewis Hamilton languished behind in qualifying but could benefit from race pace in F1 Bahrain Grand Prix

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

Lewis Hamilton will have “strong pace” at today’s F1 Bahrain Grand Prix despite starting from P9.

Although Mercedes teammate George Russell qualified in third, a different set-up to his W15 meant Hamilton had a more difficult qualifying run.

However, he emerged upbeat and could now benefit from the race pace that his car has been optimised for.

Andrew Shovlin, Mercedes Trackside Engineering Director, said: "It's been much harder to get the lap-time out of the car [Friday] than [Thursday].

“We made some changes overnight to try and improve the long run and that has likely cost us some single lap pace.

"It was very encouraging for the team to see George put it in P3 at the first race though.

“Lewis didn't have a clean run through the sessions and he'll no doubt be frustrated by that as he'd looked to be very quick [on Thursday].

“Nevertheless, we expect him to have strong pace in the race and he's no doubt relieved to see that the W15 has way more potential than the two cars that came before it.

"We're looking forward to [Saturday]. It's a race where you can overtake, so good race pace is really important.

“More than anything though, it will be interesting to see how the car performs and where everyone falls out in terms of pace."

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…

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is on pole position ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff reacted: "[Thursday] we looked slightly better than today on our single-lap performance.

“We intentionally tried to set the car up for the race though, so we hope we’re in more of a sweet spot for the Grand Prix tomorrow.

"The set-up changes we made certainly contributed to the drop in our performance today.

“At the start of Qualifying, we wondered if we had sacrificed too much for tomorrow but in the end, it wasn’t too bad.

“P3 is a good place to start but we were still three tenths off pole position.

"Behind Verstappen, the gaps are so close with several other teams. Just a couple of tenths makes such a big difference.

“It’s about the absolute tiny margins and if you find even small gains, then you are right in the game.

"We hope that tomorrow will be a little bit better but we are still learning so much about this car."

Hamilton said: "I struggled throughout Qualifying as we have in the past couple of years.

"The car is feeling really great, but I just went a little bit in a direction to help my race pace.

“I wasn’t feeling as comfortable with that [Thursday] so that was the focus. I’ve definitely sacrificed more single-lap performance than I hoped too but I hope that pays off tomorrow.

"It’s a lot of work to do to get past a lot of quick cars that are starting ahead of me, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.

“George’s position and the pace he showed today really highlights, and is a real testament, to the team.

"It shows just how hard everyone has worked over the winter. It’s amazing for us to have a car that we can fight with. It reignites the fire and the flame within us drivers. For me today, Bono and everyone else did a great job."

Russell added: "Everybody at the factory has done a great job to give Lewis and I a car that we are much happier with.

“It’s a base that we can build upon. We’ve still got some catching up to do to be at the very front, but starting P3 for tomorrow’s race is a good place to be.

"It’s clear how tight it is between a number of teams, including ourselves, Ferrari, the McLarens, and Aston Martin.

“It is exciting knowing that if you put the whole lap together and find a tenth or two, that will add up to several positions on the grid.

"Since the test, the whole team has been working incredibly hard to fine-tune the set-up and make improvements.

"We’ve clearly made a big step forward in our single lap pace. Hopefully we haven’t compromised our race pace, but we will see tomorrow. I think we’re likely to be in a close fight for the podium positions behind Verstappen."

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