Lewis Hamilton has admitted he is struggling to “tame” Mercedes’ new Formula 1 car at pre-season testing and believes fast-starters Ferrari could be the team to beat come the opening Bahrain GP next weekend. World champions Mercedes have generated headlines this week with a radical new design for their W13 car but have yet to turn that intrigue into fast times, with Hamilton only fifth on Friday despite a soft-tyre run.
“It’s tough at the moment,” admitted Hamilton, who had several off-track moments. “You can see the on-boards, tank-slappers left right and centre, bouncing and bumpy. While Kevin Magnussen set a surprise fastest time on the penultimate day of testing in Haas’ extra hour of running, it was Ferrari who have appeared consistently the fastest and most comfortable.
And asked who would win next weekend’s season-opening Bahrain GP if it took place this weekend, Hamilton replied: “I think Ferrari from what I can see, they would get a one-two… or maybe Red Bull.” Hamilton’s comments follow those from Carlos Sainz, who earlier suggested Mercedes and their driver George Russell were playing “typical” games in talking up the Italian team ahead of the season.
Russell admitted at testing at Sakhir that Ferrari were looking very solid and potentially the strongest in low fuel runs. Sainz said on Friday that the Briton’s comments were “typical Mercedes, typical George… just hype up the others and then come to the first race and blow the competition away”. If it would be the first year they’ve done it then I would maybe believe them,” the Spaniard added.
But they’ve done it for five or six years now and they keep surprising us in the first race. As you can imagine I don’t believe much… we can see what they are doing [on track] and I’m not going to say much.” Responding to those remarks, which Sainz made before out-pacing Max Verstappen and Hamilton in the afternoon, Hamilton said: “We’ll be really, really good if we were having all these oversteer moments and this tacky driving to hide our cars.
It’s not the case. We have things we’re trying to work through. Others are struggling less but who knows maybe we’ll get to next week and have a better understanding.