Lewis Hamilton fears that Mercedes will be at a disadvantage during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, as he finished Friday practice in eighth place. Fernando Alonso led the pace during evening practice, while Hamilton’s fastest lap was 0.636 seconds slower than the leading Aston Martin and trailing reigning champion Max Verstappen by 0.467 seconds. Hamilton’s practice runs using heavier fuel loads proved fruitless compared to his competitors, with lap times averaging over a second slower than Verstappen’s. “We found out we’re a long way off,” admitted Hamilton. “We kind of knew that a little bit in the [preseason] test, but it’s a big gap.”
Despite Hamilton’s efforts to optimize his car during practice, he was unsuccessful in closing the time gap against his rival drivers. “I think I got the car to the best place I can get it setup wise, we’ll continue to tweak little bits here and there. But it’ll be small bits, which is milliseconds, not the closing of a gap of a second,” Hamilton stated. However, he remained hopeful and determined, stating, “Nonetheless, we’ll keep our heads down tonight, go through the data, work and progress tomorrow. We’ve got to find out if there’s any way we can add performance tonight.”
Hamilton revealed how Mercedes’ engineers are assessing the pace of the cars, stating that he is more likely to face Ferrari in competition rather than Aston Martin, which he believes could be Red Bull’s closest rivals. “It looks like Aston is second, then we’re between third or fourth. So we’re kind of where we are last year or a little bit further behind. It’s difficult for everybody, and not where anyone at the team wants to be, or where everyone at the team deserves to be because everyone works so hard and really is so courageous and thoughtful in their process, but we’re just on the wrong track,” Hamilton said.
Despite the tough competition present for Mercedes, Hamilton’s focus remained on persevering and improving upon his current standings. “So we’ve got to continue to graft a way and find a way to get ourselves on the right track, but we’re a long way off the guys in front,” he expressed. With such a determined attitude alongside a team of hardworking engineers, Hamilton will undoubtedly put up a fight during the Bahrain Grand Prix.