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Mercedes “Shocked” By Practice Pace but Remain Reserved for Race Day

The British driver’s best time was a 1:30.374, almost three tenths quicker than any of their rival teams....

The second practice session of the Bahrain GP saw Mercedes reach the top of the timing sheet much to the surprise of Lewis Hamilton. The British driver’s best time was a 1:30.374, almost three tenths quicker than any of their rival teams.

It was strange simply because the first practice session saw Hamilton at ninth best, which is something he couldn’t explain.

“We made some improvements over the sessions,” he said, “I don’t understand, it’s a shock to see us where we are, but we’ll take it for now.

“But we can’t get ahead of ourselves, we need to keep our heads down, keep working on the set-up and trying to extract more.”

While this one-lap pace is promising, Hamilton believes that Mercedes is well behind Red Bull in terms of race pace and has tempered expectations for the race.

“I think our long-run pace is nowhere near the Red Bulls, for example, and I think we were a lot closer so we’ve got some work to do there,” he said.

Helmut Marko: “I Don’t Think Mercedes’ Times are Completely Representative”

In comparison, Red Bull had a lacklustre practice session with Max Verstappen landing in P6 during both sessions. This has led some to speculate that Red Bull aren’t as strong as they were in 2023. When asked if Red Bull was playing catch-up, Helmut Marko doesn’t think so.  

“I don’t believe so,” Marko said.

“I don’t think Mercedes’ times are completely representative. Ferrari will be very strong in the race and qualifying. But I think in terms of race pace we are still the fastest team.”

Why aren’t the lap times representative? Marko has an answer – wind.

“The question is whether we might be more sensitive to wind now that we have a very efficient car in terms of aerodynamics,” he said.

“But as I said, the first day, we are figuring things out. You adjust when it’s six degrees colder and the wind came in gusts. That obviously makes the whole thing more difficult.”

While Mercedes fans will have high hopes going into the race, it is important not to get carried away as Red Bull are certainly not to be discounted.

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