F1 Testing | Mercedes struggle in Sakhir as unreliability strikes

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Photo: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

With one day of pre-season testing remaining, the Brackley-based outfit would have hoped for a more promising start to the W14’s career. The second red flag of testing was waved after Russell’s car halted on track 26 laps into his stint behind the wheel.

This comes after Lewis Hamilton was visibly struggling with the car in the morning session, at one point having to deploy no small amount of corrective lock to tame the wayward rear end of Mercedes’ 2023 challenger.

The seven time World Champion was running in the hottest part of the day and managed to get plenty laps in but said it was a “difficult morning“. Despite having to manage the overheating tyres in the sweltering heat, Hamilton remained positive:

“The hot temperatures made it challenging with the tyres overheating, as we often see here in Bahrain. We got through our run plan though and it was good to get that mileage in.”

Considering that next week’s opening race of the new season will take place at this very circuit, any hopes of an early night were quickly dispelled for Mercedes’ engineers as they would need to resolve the balance issues evident in Hamilton’s session, followed by what was confirmed to be a hydraulic issue hampering Russell and bringing out the red flag.

Director of Trackside Engineering, Andrew Shovlin was honest in his assessment of the days running:

“Stopping on track with a reliability issue wasn’t great and we have struggled to get the car balanced well across the changing conditions.”

With one final day of testing remaining, it would be all hands to the pumps to ensure that they don’t lose any further extremely valuable time on circuit before next week’s Grand Prix.

Shovlin continued: “We’ve got some investigations going on to understand why this has been such a challenge today when yesterday it was fairly straightforward. That work will continue into the night and no doubt we’ll understand more come the morning.”

George Russell wanted to make sure talk of his red flag incident didn’t take away from what he said was “some interesting things in the data throughout the day”. With another shared day of testing to come, the younger Brit commented: “We haven’t unlocked everything yet in the W14 and everyone is working hard to do so and maximise our final day of testing tomorrow.”

The day finished with Russell 13th and Hamilton 15th in the time sheets, prompting team boss Toto Wolff to say his drivers were only “hiding” their pace.

Given the struggles with the W13 last season and the hard work over the winter to ensure the W14 would be a more worthy challenger for a team not used to finishing behind anyone, we will have to wait and see if this is just a speed bump on their way back to the top of the grid.

Photo: Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team