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Mercedes concede Red Bull superiority despite practice pace

Mercedes set the benchmark pace in Bahrain during free practice with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell going first and second after FP2.

To news overview © XPBimages

Mercedes' Trackside Engineering Director Andrew Shovlin has asserted that Red Bull and Max Verstappen are still comfortably at the front of the field following Thursday practice in Bahrain.

Red Bull are the strong favourites for the year ahead after dominating last season, winning all but one Grand Prix en route to double championship success.

But the Milton Keynes-based squad failed to top a practice session on Thursday with Lewis Hamilton ending FP2 at the head of the field.

Shovlin explained after the session that Mercedes has been left encouraged by its one-lap pace following a deep dive into unlocking its potential after testing last week.

“Following the test we were most concerned about our single lap pace,” Shovlin said.

“We had both drivers in the simulator before returning here. From the running today, it looks like we have improved.

“We're certainly not getting carried away, as there is plenty of scope within power unit modes and fuel loads for several cars to find a chunk of time before tomorrow.

“It's encouraging though that the picture we had last week seems to have improved.”

Verstappen still the long run benchmark

While Mercedes is currently out in front on the timesheets, Shovlin is expecting Red Bull to flex its muscles as the weekend progresses.

“The long run data also looks close,” Shovlin added.

“Verstappen is still comfortably out front, as we saw last week, but behind him it's going to be a tight battle for the remaining podium spots.

“We know we've got plenty to fine tune on the balance. It's still early days with the W15, and we're learning how to get lap-time out of it with each run.

“It's already feeling very different to the last two years that we have been here.”

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