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Formula 1 Bahrain GP

Hamilton: Mercedes F1 team faces "much bigger problems" than 2021

Lewis Hamilton fears his Mercedes Formula 1 team is facing "much bigger problems" than before last year's Bahrain Grand Prix after a pair of low-key free practice outings on Friday.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W13

Hamilton ended down in ninth in Friday's second practice session at Sakhir, 1.2 seconds off reigning world champion Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, with teammate George Russell in fourth some six tenths behind.

But while Russell's seemingly encouraging laptime came after a short run, the team is worried it is much further behind than that on high-fuel runs.

The Brackley outfits trialled several solutions on both Hamilton's and Russell's car to cure handling and porpoising issues, which included Hamilton switching to a floor specification Russell used in FP1, but according to the seven-time world champion it still hasn't come closer to finding solutions.

When asked to draw parallels with last year's season start, when Hamilton qualified four tenths off Verstappen after struggling during the pre-season, he says Mercedes' problems are of a much larger scale this time around.

"Compared to this year we've had much, much smaller problems in the past. We're faced with much, much bigger problems this year," Hamilton said on Friday night.

"And everything we do to try and kind of fix it doesn't really change that. It appears there's probably going to be a more longer-term fix, so nothing in the short term."

George Russell, Mercedes W13

George Russell, Mercedes W13

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Teammate Russell reckoned Mercedes is lagging over a second behind Red Bull and Ferrari and is only just about on par with midfielders Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri, as he braces for a weekend of damage limitation.

"I think it's clear from the lap time we're certainly not where we want to be," he added. "I think we made a bit of progress solving some issues, but the pace is not there at all at the moment.

"We're a long way off the pace of Red Bull, Ferrari. Even the likes of Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri seem on our pace or even quicker, so we've got a bit of work to do.

"I think the high fuel pace is a bit more representative and we were consistently over a second slower than where our rivals are.

"We still have race weekend on our hands, and we still need to make the best of this situation and maybe damage limitation, but we need to look into it."

Russell believes Mercedes' new W13 has plenty of potential, but so far the eight-time world championship winning team has not managed to unlock it, calling every possible fix "one step forward and two steps back".

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"We are truly throwing everything at it at the moment to try and unlock the potential which we think is there, but we're just really struggling to tap into at the moment ," he explained.

"Everything we try is maybe one step forward, two steps back and there's always a bit of a limitation so it's going to take time.

"I think we all hope that we could have solved it for this weekend but how things stand at the moment we are in fight, and we've got some work to do."

'We need to really go over the data tonight to understand why we're both struggling with the car."

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