F1 testing: Lewis Hamilton struggles to ‘tame’ Mercedes and makes Ferrari Bahrain GP favorite


Lewis Hamilton gives his verdict on the all-new Mercedes car; Ferrari impressed in pre-season testing, but Carlos Sainz is cautious about the potential for world champions, dismissing the “typical Mercedes hype”.

Last update: 03/11/22 5:58 p.m.

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Lewis Hamilton was still suffering from sound porpoising during the final hour of Bahrain’s second day of testing

Lewis Hamilton was still suffering from sound porpoising during the final hour of Bahrain’s second day of testing

Lewis Hamilton has admitted he struggled to ‘tame’ Mercedes’ new Formula 1 car during pre-season testing and believes the fast Ferraris could be the team to beat when the GP opens Bahrain next weekend.

World champions Mercedes grabbed headlines this week with a radical new design for their W13 car, but have yet to turn that storyline into fast times, with Hamilton only fifth on Friday despite racing on soft tyres.

“It’s tough right now,” admitted Hamilton, who has had several off-track moments. “You can see the edges, the tank-slappers left to right and center, bouncing and bumpy.

“Not entirely happy at the moment but we are trying to tame it.”

While Kevin Magnussen set a surprise best time on the penultimate day of testing for the Haas Extra Race Hour, it was Ferrari who always proved the quickest and most comfortable.

And when asked who would win the season-opening Bahrain GP next weekend if it took place this weekend, Hamilton replied: “I think Ferrari from what I can see, they would get a double…or maybe Red Bull.”

Carlos Sainz takes the lead in lap times in the afternoon session of Bahrain's second test in his Ferrari

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Carlos Sainz takes the lead in lap times in the afternoon session of Bahrain’s second test in his Ferrari

Carlos Sainz takes the lead in lap times in the afternoon session of Bahrain’s second test in his Ferrari

Hamilton responds to Sainz’s ‘typical Mercedes’ jibe

Hamilton’s comments follow those of Carlos Sainz, who earlier suggested that Mercedes and its driver George Russell were playing “typical” games when talking about the Italian team ahead of the season.

Russell admitted in testing at Sakhir that Ferrari looked very solid and potentially the strongest in fuel-efficient racing.

Sainz said on Friday that the Briton’s comments were “typical Mercedes, typical George… just get others excited and then come to the first race and blow the competition away”.

“If it was the first year they did it, maybe I would believe them,” added the Spaniard. “But they’ve been doing it for five or six years now and they keep surprising us in the first race.

Max Verstappen and Sainz go head-to-head, flexing their muscles in the Red Bull and Ferrari

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Max Verstappen and Sainz go head-to-head, flexing their muscles in the Red Bull and Ferrari

Max Verstappen and Sainz go head-to-head, flexing their muscles in the Red Bull and Ferrari

“As you can imagine, I don’t believe that much…we can see what they are doing [on track] and I won’t say much.”

Responding to those remarks, which Sainz made before passing Max Verstappen and Hamilton in the afternoon, Hamilton said: “We would be really, really good if we had all those oversteer moments and sticky driving to hide our cars . That’s not the case.

“We have things we’re trying to figure out. Others are having less trouble, but who knows, maybe we’ll get to next week and have a better understanding.”

Is Ferrari the team to beat?

Mercedes have been constructors’ champions for eight years.

Ferrari, the sport’s oldest and most successful team, finished third overall last year after climbing from a 40-year low to sixth in 2020.

They haven’t won a drivers’ title since retired Kimi Raikkonen was champion in 2007 or a constructors’ crown since 2008.

Hamilton hits the track in his radical new-look Mercedes at Bahrain pre-season testing

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Hamilton hits the track in his radical new-look Mercedes at Bahrain pre-season testing

Hamilton hits the track in his radical new-look Mercedes at Bahrain pre-season testing

This year sees major rule changes, however, and Ferrari has turned its full attention to its 2022 car earlier than its title-seeking rivals and has also benefited from more time in the wind tunnel.

The buzz in Italy, and in the F1 paddock, is mounting.

Friday’s headlines in Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport highlighted those growing hopes, though it’s still a long way from headline news.

“Tough and fast, the Ferrari goes,” the newspaper said, noting the words of Russell and Verstappen. “F1-75 impresses rivals”.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner was initially tight-lipped on the issue of Mercedes' radical 'bridge-less' design on their new car

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Red Bull boss Christian Horner was initially tight-lipped on the issue of Mercedes’ radical ‘bridge-less’ design on their new car

Red Bull boss Christian Horner was initially tight-lipped on the issue of Mercedes’ radical ‘bridge-less’ design on their new car

Red Bull boss Christian Horner, whose team was locked in a season-long battle with Mercedes last year, added to the praise.

“For me, the car that looks the most stable on the circuit is the Ferrari at the moment,” he said. “They have had a very good trial period so far, both in Barcelona and in Bahrain.

“They looked extremely competitive every time they were on track, but you have to remember that these cars are still very immature.

“The pace of development will be fast and intense and I expect that to change and Mercedes are going to be a huge factor in this championship, I’m sure.”




Sky Sports

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