It was a tough opening race of the season for the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team as Lewis Hamilton finished fifth and George Russell seventh in the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Both cars ran a Soft/Hard/Hard strategy and battled throughout but disappointingly were unable to match the superior pace of the Red Bull, Ferrari and Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin.
Lewis made up two positions on the opening lap to run in fifth for most of the race. That became fourth when Charles Leclerc retired but he lost out to Alonso in the closing stages.
George dropped to sixth at the start with a slow first stop relegating him to eighth. He ran close to the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll throughout but was unable to pass for seventh.
‘We did the best we could today. We are the fourth fastest team right now, and the Ferrari and Aston that we were battling were just quicker than us. It was close for a second with Sainz, but I couldn’t hang on and he just went away in the final laps. Big congratulations to Fernando and the whole Aston Martin team too. They did a great job today. It was a fun tussle we had for a moment, but he was too quick. We are lacking a lot of downforce, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to add more to the car. As soon as we put more load on the front and rear, we will be able to pick up our pace. We’ve just got to keep working; we know we are not where we need to be. I’ve got to stay positive, keep my head up and keep pushing the Team. I will be a positive light for them and get the best points I can.’
‘We are lacking performance and we are a long behind where we want to be. Aston Martin are the surprise package this year and our deficit to Red Bull and those ahead is too big. The positive we can take away is that there is no fundamental problem with the car, other than it is lacking downforce. As silly as it sounds, that is one of the easiest problems to solve compared to what we had to do last year. We are all here to win. If we must sacrifice some races or part of this season to give ourselves a chance to fight in the second half of the season, or even next year, that is what we are going to have to do. We know the Team is good at developing and finding performance, but we are a long way behind where we want to be. We need to find some performance quickly. Bahrain is an outlier circuit, but performance isn’t going to swing more than three tenths positively or negatively from track to track.’
Toto Wolff, Team Principal & CEO
‘That was one of our worst days in racing. It was not good at all; we are lacking pace front, right, and centre. The Aston Martins are very fast, and the Red Bull is just on a different planet. It hurts that they are so far ahead; it reminds me of our best years where we put one second on everyone else. That is the benchmark. We need to put one foot in front of the other to come back but nobody in this team will throw in the towel. We need to dig deep, deeper than we ever have done before. And we can do that.’
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
‘It was a very difficult Sunday; the gap to Red Bull is huge and we’ve got Aston Martin and Ferrari ahead of us too. Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead and we need to go back and come up with a plan to try and find improvements. We are lacking overall grip and, on a high degradation track like this, there was nothing that the drivers could do to attack. However, it’s encouraging to see how the team is pulling together and how well the drivers are working together. This is the second season we’ve started on the back foot though and we’re under no illusion that this is not acceptable for our team. We’ve got a few days to regroup and improve ahead of Saudi; we will work together to try and make sure the next race is a better one than this weekend.’