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Mercedes and Hamilton endure horrific start to 2021 F1 season in Bahrain

The world champions could only manage 48 laps on day one of F1 pre-season testing as reliability issues and handling problems raised eyebrows within the team.

Hamilton Bahrain
To news overview © Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were not pleased with the opening day of F1 pre-season testing as a gearshift issue started a run of problems for the defending champions.

Bottas completed just six laps in the morning session, spending over three hours in the garage as the team tried to track down the problem before changing the entire gearbox. He believes Mercedes should have done a shakedown to iron out any issues such as the problem he suffered on Friday.

"It's very easy to say afterwards, of course now yes we should have done it, Bottas said to F1 TV. "But in recent years everything has been pretty smooth and certain things have already been run in the dyno. I'm sure that will be reviewed for next year.

"I think the good thing this year is if you miss some running we can catch up because of the mileage limitation, with al the efficiency and cost cap. We don't have a super busy schedule on the other [test] days so hopefully we can catch up and recover, if not on everything than most things."

			© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images
	© Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images

Things did not improve in the afternoon session for Mercedes as Hamilton struggled in the sandstorm that passed through the Bahrain International Circuit.

Early in his run, the seven-time world champion asked for a back-up set of pedals and had a loose mirror to deal with. But they were the least of his problems.

Hamilton struggled to keep the W12 on the track when using the C2 hard compound tyre although he managed to complete 42 laps.

"Today definitely wasn't the cleanest of days that we've had but these things are sent to try us," said Hamilton. "The second session wasn't without its challenges, but we exist to find solutions to the problems we're faced with. We just had a good debrief and we'll keep working away.

"We have no choice but to take the positives. I remember in 2007 during testing I had 10 days in the car and now it's getting less and less.

"We only have a day and a half in the car before the first race, with different tyres and different aero modifications so it's not easy but it's the same for everyone. I'd like to think my nine years' experience with this team will help me get the best out of it."

			© Mercedes
	© Mercedes

Pirelli have introduced a new tyre structure for 2021 which will be crucial for the teams in the early stages of the season. Finding the optimum tyre working window will play a significant role and the teams and drivers that can get on top of this quickly will have an advantage.

Mercedes are yet to get near the sweet spot on the new rubber and will be working hard to get the perfect tyre pressures and temperatures to extract lap time. Neither Bottas or Hamilton did a qualifying simulation but Mercedes will have to show their hand at some point during the weekend.

Traditionally, the Mercedes has always looked on rails whenever it's been out on track since the beginning of the turbo-hybrid era in 2014. But Hamilton was fighting the car on the entry and exit of all 15 turns on the circuit.

It's highly unlike Mercedes to see their star driver sawing away at the wheel and it's still very early days. Last year a ride height change proved to be somewhat of a golden bullet which extracted a lot of lap time for Mercedes.

The new spaghetti-shaped floor which the team have been quiet about has yet to reach its full potential. This is a key area for Mercedes given the restrictions on the rear floor for 2021. Expect a lot more to come on Saturday and Sunday.

Don't take too much from Mercedes' running on day one of pre-season testing, they will still be towards the pointy end of the grid come the first Grand Prix on March 28.

Formula 1 pre-season test 2021 RN365 News dossier


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