Mercedes endured a tough preseason testing program as the team battled instability in the rear of their new W12 car following downforce cuts introduced for 2021.
Although Mercedes stayed on the back foot for one lap in Bahrain, losing to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the fight for pole position, she fared much better on the long stints of the race.
Hamilton managed to defeat Verstappen in a close battle for victory, settled after Verstappen was forced to surrender the lead after passing his off-track rival with four laps to go.
But the race has come as a reminder to Mercedes of the severe challenge Red Bull faces in 2021 as the German team set off in search of an eighth consecutive round of world championships.
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes W12, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB16B
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Reflecting on his race victory in Bahrain, Hamilton admitted that Mercedes was “lucky” to beat Red Bull thanks to Verstappen’s off-track trip, and that he needed to perform better in the races to come.
“I’m pretty sure we have to do better,” said Hamilton. “We have to be smarter and the way we navigate on our weekends with the fact that we don’t have the fastest car in
“But that’s all good for me. I don’t mind having to take more out to make a difference.”
Mercedes has won every world title since the start of the V6 hybrid era in 2014, with its biggest challenges coming from Ferrari in 2017 and 2018.
Hamilton and teammate Bottas have finished first and second in the Drivers ‘Championship respectively over the past two years, a sign of Mercedes’ advantage over the rest of the grid.
But downforce reductions introduced for 2021 have hurt teams running a low-rake car concept – like Mercedes and Aston Martin – more than those with high-rake cars.
Bottas finished third in Bahrain, 37 seconds behind Hamilton and Verstappen after a late pit stop, but struggled to face the leading duo throughout the race.
The Finn agreed with Hamilton’s assessment that Mercedes are currently trailing Red Bull for pure performance, saying the pace of the W12 car “needs to get even better”.
“Red Bull looked very quick, and I can’t wait to see the final lap between Max and Lewis in replay,” said Bottas.
“We don’t have the fastest car at the moment, we have to be perfect in all other areas.
“But of course we also want to have the fastest car, so we have to keep working.”