Hamilton: Bahrain test crucial for Mercedes F1 fightback
Lewis Hamilton thinks the Formula 1 test that got underway today in Bahrain will be crucial in helping his Mercedes team answer the big "question mark" it has over how to make better use of 2017 tyres.
Rivals Ferrari appear better able to extract life out of the new rubber this year, and its SF70H is more comfortable on the softest compounds and when temperatures rise.
Those factors have played a part in strategy decisions in the opening races – and Mercedes knows especially that getting more on top of tyre management is something that needs addressing.
Speaking ahead of today's first day of testing, Hamilton said: "We've got some work to do in the test - trying to strengthen the car, and strengthen our knowledge of the tyres, so we can be in a better position for the next race."
Hamilton will test in Bahrain today, with teammate Valtteri Bottas taking over on Wednesday.
While Mercedes does hold an advantage on single-lap pace – having taken pole position at every race so far this year – Ferrari's better long-run form means race days are much closer.
Hamilton has no doubts about the potential there is in the W08, and moving forward will be about unlocking that speed over more of a race.
"The car is obviously good," he said. "It's just how we use our tyres on race day, particularly when it gets a bit warmer.
"But even [in Bahrain] it wasn't really that, it was quite cool. So that is definitely a big question mark for us."
As well as understanding the tyres, the form of the Mercedes appears to shift around depending on how much fuel is in the car.
"In the beginning, the car's a big, heavy lump... and, yeah, the grip just does not feel good at all, it's sliding around.
"Then the car gets lighter and lighter, gets more and more comfortable and, when you put the fresher tyres on in the end, as I did, you got like new boots and the tyre is more nimble like qualifying again, you know. There's like a point at which it goes one way or the other."
Ferrari is conducting the first of Pirelli's 2018 tyre tests with Vettel on Tuesday, before he reverts to a normal test programme with the team on Wednesday.
* The start of the Bahrain test was delayed for 10-minutes because containers of equipment were sticking out too far in the pitlane and posed a potential danger. They had to be moved before track action could get underway.
|Ferrari||Antonio Giovinazzi/ Sebastian Vettel||Sebastian Vettel|
|Mercedes||Lewis Hamilton||Valtteri Bottas|
|Red Bull||Daniel Ricciardo||Pierre Gasly|
|Force India|| |
|Toro Rosso||Sean Gelael|| |
|Haas||Romain Grosjean||Kevin Magnussen|
|Renault||Nico Hulkenberg||Sergey Sirotkin|
|Sauber||Marcus Ericsson||Pascal Wehrlein|
|McLaren||Oliver Turvey||Stoffel Vandoorne|
Chase Carey responds to Bernie Ecclestone jibe about "overcharging" F1 promoters
Brembo brake update a big improvement – Grosjean