Some of Mercedes' customer teams and drivers have admitted to some mild concerns about where their power unit ranks at the start of the 2022 season, after Mercedes-powered cars occupied the bottom six positions for most of the weekend in Bahrain.
At one point, the two McLarens, Williams and Aston Martins were the last six cars on track, while the Mercedes factory team were more than 30 seconds behind the leading Ferrari and Red Bull until a late Safety Car brought them back into contention.
With F1 entering an engine freeze for 2022 after quite a lot of work from manufacturers to adjust to the new E10 fuel, the relative lack of performance from the Mercedes power unit was noted by customers.
"This is an observation that we had already quite early," Aston Martin boss Mike Krack told media, including RacingNews365.com, when asked whether Ferrari's power unit appears to be a step ahead of the Mercedes.
"But, on the other hand, we see the Mercedes factory team finishing third and fourth, so still, you can do the job.
"I think, for us, the first thing is to build a quicker car before we go too much into [that]. Before we go too much into the subject, I think we should sort out our problems.
"I think the opposition has made maybe a bigger step, and that's something we need to catch up on."
The Mercedes-powered drivers weigh in with their views
Nico Hulkenberg, making his return to F1 as he stepped into the Aston Martin in place of the ill Sebastian Vettel, said he also felt there wasn't a huge amount of oomph from the power unit.
"[It seemed] sort of off today," said Hulkenberg, whose last handful of races were also with Mercedes power, as he deputised on three occasions for Racing Point in 2020.
"Even with DRS sometimes I [just wasn't] catching people. We seemed to be a little bit down on speeds on the straights."
McLaren's Lando Norris was quite critical about the overall state of his MCL36, but also pointed to the Mercedes power unit as being a weak link in the chain.
"You still have a Mercedes in third and fourth," he commented.
"I mean, it's definitely not helping. I think we're definitely lacking on that end compared to the other guys. But I saw some other problems with other guys as well, so reliability is good, and I guess that's a positive at the minute."
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Russell and Wolff deny any power unit concerns
George Russell, who finished fourth in his first race as an official Mercedes driver, reckons there's more to the factory team's issues than an outright power deficit.
"I wouldn't necessarily say it's purely engine; there's a number of contributing factors," he explained.
"I think we are quite draggy. It's a number of
factors and probably the drag level and the bouncing is contributing to
it. It is going to slow you down because we're smashing into the
ground, rather than going forwards.
"I think the lap time deficit we have currently is about 50 per cent on the straights and 50 per cent in the corners."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff also seemed to hint that the perceived lack of power is down to different factors.
"I think we need to analyse the drag levels first, before we really make a judgment of whether we're lacking power," he said.
"I don't think that there's big differences between the power units but, clearly, Ferrari made a big step forward.
"Last year, they weren't totally competitive and today, if you look at the singular event in Bahrain, it looks like they've outperformed everyone else."
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