Mercedes admits the lacks they have faced in Bahrain F1 Test, as Sebastian Vettel has his own misery, while Red Bull step up to the task.
The mini pre-season of three days is done for the 2021 F1 season in Bahrain and even though, it is mostly carry over from 2020, things seems to have shaken-up a bit and strangely, it looks like Mercedes is at the recovering end of the spectrum for once.
While the final day ran more or less smoothly for Mercedes, but lap count wise, they are very much behind. It is difficult to judge pace wise, but their own admission, is of a difficult three days, especially on the balance side with the aerodynamics.
“We’ve had another day with good reliability where we were able to run to plan throughout the day,” said Andrew Shovlin. “Valtteri was doing long run setup work in the morning and Lewis doing a mix of long run work and qualifying work in the afternoon. We’ve made a bit of progress with the balance on higher fuel and the car was more predictable but we can see from the data we’ve collected over the last few days that on race pace, we’re not as quick as Red Bull.
“The lower fuel work was a more confusing picture, we didn’t gain enough and we need to go and look at our approach as far too many cars were ahead of us on pace today. We’ve had issues in recent years with pace in winter testing and managed to make good progress before the first race but we may have our work cut out this time.
“We’ve not got long before we’re back here for the race so we’ve planned a programme of work to try and understand some of our issues and will be leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to find some more speed over the next ten days,” summed up Shovlin. He was, as blunt as, a reigning F1 champion team can get, echoed by drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both – where they feel, they can do with more days of running.
This, especially on Hamilton side, who is never a fan of testing. The Brit reckons that the car needs to be fine-tuned in every area, as he felt, all-through the lap, something was missing. Teammate Bottas was more optimistic with regards ‘to still be there’ in the hunt for another F1 world championship, despite the rivals’ advancements.
One other driver feeling a similar heat, would be, Aston Martin’s Vettel, who had another troubled session, where he could only do 56 laps in all. It has not been the start the German wanted, especially, when teammate Lance Stroll has had a much smoother run.
This time it was a power boost issue. “We got plenty of laps on the board, despite an early finish [caused by a loss of boost pressure],” said Vettel, looking on the positives. “Lance did a good amount of laps this morning too, so there’s a lot of data for us to work with.
“My running was very useful and the track conditions were better, so that was a big help in understanding this car. This test has definitely helped me learn where I can improve as a driver with the car and where the team can improve the AMR21 too. It’s been a good learning curve and I’m excited to keep progressing with the car.”
While there was some disappointment on this side, there was some positive talk on Red Bull side, where Max Verstappen once again topped the day, with teammate Sergio Perez having a solid outing too. “It was another good day and we got through the whole programme,” said the Dutchman. “Conditions were a bit different to day one so we had to adjust the car a bit as we went along but from our side it was very smooth, as it has been throughout the whole test.
“I think we can say it has been a good weekend but of course that doesn’t give you any guarantees and all teams are doing different programmes at testing. We always look into what we can improve and for sure there are still things we want to work on but I think all teams will have that.
“We’ll find out for sure in a couple of weeks in Q3 where we really are but in general I would say the car feels good and I’m looking forward to going racing,” Verstappen summed up, as Perez echoed his sentiments but noted that he needs to find more performance, as he gains experience to handle a tricky RB16B F1 car.
On a similar upward board is sister F1 outfit, AlphaTauri, who had a seamless pre-season testing apart from few minor troubles. While it was expected from Pierre Gasly to be up there, but rookie Yuki Tsunoda did not disappoint either, as he soaked up both race and qualifying simulations well. Now, it is all about data crunching and finding performance.
“I feel confident in the car and I think we’re in a much better place than we were this time last year,” said Gasly. “I think we know where we’ll be fast, and we have understood how to work on the car further. I really hope we can be in the fight this season and get some good points. Honda have also done a great job with the Power Unit and so far, we’re really happy with it – it’s a strong step forward, compared to last year, and the reliability has been perfect all three days, which is really positive.”
Also in the good list were the likes of McLaren, Alfa Romeo Racing, Alpine and Haas – all of whom completed their programmes without much trouble. All of their respective F1 drivers have been positive about their running, even on the final day, to gain further experience with the 2021 car.
There was a slight mishap, though, involving Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz right at the end of the day. The two ran together in the dying stages and almost touched each other in the left-hander, when the Spaniard tried to sneak in, on the inside.
“I don’t think we touched, I don’t know,” Raikkonen said to media. “I had zero idea that he was there and I saw it at the last minute, I pulled right. I don’t know, I guess he was pissed off and tried to play games but anyway. I doubt we even touched, I didn’t feel it.”
In whole of the F1 pre-season test, a lot of comparisons have been made between Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, as they ran their race simulations together. While it is expected that the Swiss outfit will be on the lower end of the field, but there is a question mark on where the Italian manufacturer will be. There are positive sounds but on track, it hasn’t been lit so far.
“I feel we have improved in many areas compared to last season,” said Mattia Binotto. “It’s hard to say where we are compared to our opponents, because this test was even harder than usual to interpret.” – the statement from the Ferrari F1 chief seems to give a 50-50 picture on the Italian manufacturer side for now.
On the timing screens, they haven’t smashed everyone but it depends on what kind of running they had. It will still be some task for Ferrari to jump into the Top 3 fight, especially with how Red Bull is looking along with McLaren, Alpine and AlpahTauri. The midfield looks close too, where Williams seems to be showing good pace after George Russell completed another productive running.
Here’s how Day 3 of Bahrain F1 Test panned out