Mercedes’ James Allison: “There is every reason to expect a close race”

Lewis Hamilton will start ninth after his penalty
Credit: Steve Etherington

James Allison admitted the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team went into Qualifying knowing they were likely to be behind Scuderia Ferrari, but the technical director believes Sunday will be different.

Mercedes saw Valtteri Bottas qualify third on the grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but Lewis Hamilton’s fourth place will translate into a ninth place grid slot thanks to his unscheduled gearbox change earlier this weekend.

Allison says Mercedes were using their tyres well during practice so he hopes this benefits both drivers when it comes to strategy on Sunday, particularly as Hamilton has a job to do to get through the field.

“Although we made a small step forward relative to our performance yesterday, we were disappointed to learn this afternoon that it was not enough to compete on level terms with Ferrari,” said Allison.

“However, we know from Friday’s long runs in practice that we have good tyre degradation, and there is every reason to expect a close race tomorrow, especially for Valtteri who will start from the clean side of the grid.

“With Lewis, we will need to be quite imaginative with the strategy to allow him to recover from the gearbox penalty – but this is a circuit where overtaking is possible, although never easy, and which will offer opportunities to make progress by starting on the soft compound.”