There were winners and losers throughout F1’s three day test in Bahrain, and it’s safe to say Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team were the latter.
The team experienced a number of issues during the weekend, most notably a visibly unstable rear end which induced a number of slides and spins over the course of the test.
Both drivers also lost a large amount of running, and the now-7-time-champion Lewis Hamilton dropped a hefty portion of his track time after beaching his W12 in the gravel and bringing out a red flag on the second day.
As Mercedes prepare for the first race of the 2021 season at the very same track, the team are eager to right the wrongs of testing. Team principal Toto Wolff says that the ‘tricky’ test didn’t exactly yield the results they expected, stating that the new car didn’t seem ‘stable’ compared to competitors, but that pre-season running isn’t necessarily indicative of ‘true performance.’
“It feels like we have spent quite some time in Bahrain recently, and with mixed fortunes.” Said Wolff.
“Overall, it was a tricky three days of testing for us. The W12 wasn’t as stable, predictable or planted as some of our rivals. Red Bull looked strong on both the long and the short runs, but as always with testing, it’s difficult to be certain of true performance.”
Mercedes’ profound lack of rear downforce is likely due to the new regulations this year which have eradicated a significant portion of the floor towards the back of the car, causing an estimated 10% loss of downforce.
However, the Silver Arrows’ struggle is much more accentuated. The new regulations favour teams that operate with a high-rake angle, such as Red Bull Racing (Mercedes closest competitors), and teams like Merc that have a low-rake design philosophy are struggling to cope with the reduction in floor size.
With just a few days until the first sign of cars on track at Sakhir for the Bahrain Grand Prix, It is of paramount importance Mercedes claw back the lost downforce so as to maximise their chances at an 8th consecutive constructors’ title.
But whilst Toto Wolff acknowledges that the test may prove not to be representative, he says the team must certainly ‘react’ to the challenges facing them.
“The only thing we know for sure is that we must prove our ability to react. From the moment the third day of testing finished, we got our heads down and started to figure out how we can return to Bahrain in stronger form in just a few days’ time.”
“While these cars share some parts from their predecessors, there have also been significant rule changes to interpret and overcome. We have also had to change the way we work in response to the cost cap.“
“But as we have found before, it’s from the difficult moments that we learn the most.”
Even though the new season will accompany a number of concerns Wolff ultimately remains positive that his team can ‘fight back stronger’ and challenge for the title as they have done in previous years. He has faith in Mercedes, and like most, he is exceptionally eager to get back underway in Bahrain.
“This team’s biggest strengths are our people and our values, and after a tough test, I know that we can fight back stronger. I’m looking forward to getting this new and exciting season underway, seeing the progress we can make and how we fare in Bahrain.”