Lewis Hamilton has downplayed Mercedes' chances of claiming some early-season wins, admitting that the team's new W13 isn't capable of fighting with the fastest cars at the moment.
The W13 hasn't set any headline-grabbing times during the Bahrain test, with both Hamilton and George Russell appearing to struggle with the handling of the car, as well as encountering severe porpoising down the straights.
With Ferrari and Red Bull seemingly pretty comfortable with their new machines, Hamilton thinks it could be some time before a Mercedes claims a victory this season.
Asked whether he's ruling out a championship challenge at this point, Hamilton offered his thoughts.
"It's a little bit too early to have those kind of thoughts, but, at the moment, I don't think we'll be competing for wins," he told media, including RacingNews365.com, during the Saturday drivers' press conference in Bahrain.
"But there is potential within our car to get us there. We've just got to learn to be able to extract it, and fix some of the problems, which is what we're working on."
Hamilton rules out any chance of Bahrain victory
Hamilton bluntly said that the team have some issues that need addressing, which may be related to the porpoising that he and Russell are encountering – the W13 appearing to be one of the worst-affected cars down the straights.
"Everyone is doing such an incredible job back at the factory and working as hard as they can," Hamilton said.
"But we have some hurdles to overcome. Next week, we'll get a much better showing of our pace. But I think people will be surprised, maybe. It's a bit different this year [compared to 2021]."
Asked directly whether Mercedes can join in the fight for victory at the season opener in Bahrain next week, the seven-time World Champion said it isn't likely.
"Not at the moment, I'm sure everyone can figure that out," he commented.
"We're not the quickest at the moment. I think Ferrari look to be the quickest, and perhaps Red Bull, and then maybe us. I don't know. But we're currently not at the top."
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What about Mercedes' pre-season struggles in 2021?
Mercedes also had some struggles during the pre-season test in Bahrain in 2021, but managed to find solutions that allowed them to show up to the first race with a car capable of fighting for victory.
Given that this season is a much different situation, with a revolutionary new ruleset introduced, Hamilton said the chances of such a situation happening again are minute.
"No, it feels a lot different," he added.
"It's not gonna look as good as it did last year – it was a difficult session. I think we have far bigger challenges this time and they're not ones we can turn around...[quickly].
"I think they will take a little bit longer but, from what I'm told, we have a considerable amount of pace to find."
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