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Hamilton struggles to find positives amid Mercedes ‘disappointment’

Lewis Hamilton said there was “disappointment” at Mercedes following the team’s underwhelming performance in Formula 1’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who will leave Mercedes to join Ferrari at the end of the year, made up just two places from ninth on the grid and crossed the line 45 seconds behind race winner Max Verstappen.

The seven-time world champion made a setup change to sacrifice his qualifying speed in a hope for better race pace but it didn’t work out on Saturday.

His Mercedes team-mate George Russell fared little better, losing out to Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc as he dropped to fifth.

“We probably feel a bit of disappointment within the team. I was definitely hoping that we would be better this weekend then we were,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1.

“But it was a tough race, it was very close with everybody and degradation is high with the car. There are plenty of areas we can improve. We were further back from the Red Bulls than we thought as well.”

Hamilton has not won a race since December 2021 but had been happier with Mercedes’ new car throughout testing and was encouraged by its drivability coming into the first race.

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With Hamilton having failed to win a race in the past two seasons, the team debate whether the Mercedes driver will this year. You can listen to the latest episode of the Sky Sports F1 Podcast now

However, he seemed far less positive about the W15 when asked about the Saudi Arabian GP, which begins this Thursday – live on Sky Sports F1.

“I mean, the car is reliable,” said Hamilton.

“But I think it was a struggle in the car. The platform…I was giving it everything, but there wasn’t a lot of performance there compared to some of the others.

“I think if I would have qualified better, I would be a good couple of places ahead because the last stint was good. It was about discovery. I found out a lot of things about the car to improve and I’m sure the team will.”

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Hamilton gives his thoughts, after being asked if George Russell could lead Mercedes from next season

Russell explains overheating issues

Russell overtook Leclerc for second place early in the race but lost ground in the middle of the Bahrain Grand Prix due to overheating issues, with Hamilton also facing the same problem and claiming at one point that his battery was only at one per cent.

The 26-year-old says the problem is “nothing to be concerned about” and the team’s “forecast for the conditions were incorrect”.

“We both faced a similar problem. For whatever reason we had massive engine overheating and the battery wasn’t working properly,” said Russell.

“I made a really good start, got into second and then was like ‘here we go’, these big red alarms on my steering wheel. I had no battery left, went to turn my power down and I was losing fourth tenths just in power.

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George Russell describes the Bahrain Grand Prix as a ‘difficult day’ having struggled with the car’s cooling issues

“It was so difficult holding them off, I’m surprised we managed to do it for the first 10 laps or so. Then we just went backwards thereafter. It was a shame we didn’t show any real potential of this car, but a bit of a strange day.

“All of the teams have five or six cooling specifications. We went with the most aggressive option and clearly just went too far. It was simply a decision, we got the wrong bodywork with the conditions in Bahrain.”

The temperatures will be warmer in Jeddah but Russell insists Mercedes will choose a different cooling package which will resolve the issue for next Saturday’s race.

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Highlights of the F1 2024 season opener at the Bahrain Grand Prix

“We’ve seen Ferrari have always been strong here in Bahrain, I would argue this is a bit of a weak circuit for us but we would have been in a fight for P3 if it wasn’t for the cooling issues,” continued Russell.

“You can’t ‘ifs, buts, carrots and nuts’ kind of thing but we showed the full potential of the car in qualifying. Normally our race pace is faster than qualifying. In the race we got it wrong.”

Wolff: Verstappen in a ‘different galaxy’

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff describes Max Verstappen’s performance as being in ‘another galaxy’ and that Mercedes couldn’t materialise the performance of the car in Bahrain

Red Bull’s one-two was a repeat of the F1 season-opener 12 months ago and there is concern Verstappen will enjoy more dominance in 2024 despite a closely bunched field over one lap.

Toto Wolff thinks Mercedes have shown “glimpses of performance” but made “many mistakes” which proved costly.

“Max was in a different galaxy. We need to look at ourselves to see why we lost so much performance on the hard tyres,” said Wolff.

“We got the cooling level wrong and therefore you need to lift and coast and you lose performance in the tyres, so it was a bit of a vicious circle.

“It was odd. As the race unfolded we had to lift and coast more to manage the temperatures on the power unit. We closed it up too much, that was the main issue. Then we didn’t have the pace weirdly.”

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Ted Kravitz is in the paddock to review all the biggest stories from the Bahrain Grand Prix

Sky Sports F1’s live Saudi Arabian GP schedule

Wednesday March 6

  • 2.30pm: Drivers’ Press Conference

Thursday March 7

  • 9.50am: F2 Practice
  • 10.50am: F1 Academy Practice
  • 1pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice One (session starts at 1.30pm)
  • 2.55pm: F2 Qualifying
  • 4.45pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Two (session starts at 5pm)
  • 6.15pm: F1 Academy Qualifying
  • 7.15pm: The F1 Show

Friday March 8

  • 11.55am: F1 Academy Race 1
  • 1.10pm: Saudi Arabian GP Practice Three (session starts at 1.30pm)
  • 3.05pm: F2 Sprint Race
  • 4.10pm: Saudi Arabian GP Qualifying build-up
  • 5pm: SAUDI ARABIAN GP QUALIFYING

Saturday March 9

  • 12pm: F1 Academy Race 2
  • 1.20pm: F2 Feature Race
  • 3.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP build-up: Grand Prix Saturday
  • 5pm: THE SAUDI ARABIAN GRAND PRIX
  • 7pm: Saudi Arabian GP reaction: Chequered flag
  • 9.30pm: Saudi Arabian GP highlights

Watch every round of the 2024 F1 season, including the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix from Thursday March 7 to Saturday March 9. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership for just £21 a month for 12 months

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