Practice showed struggling Mercedes ’not bluffing’

"Max is in a league of his own"

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By GMM

19 March 2022 - 08:03
Practice showed struggling Mercedes (...)

World champion Max Verstappen has called Mercedes’ new car for 2022 "shitty".

Indeed, Lewis Hamilton confirmed on Friday that the German team was not bluffing or sandbagging over the winter, racing to the ninth quickest time in Bahrain practice.

"We’ve got a lot of problems," he said.

Before that, Dutchman Verstappen didn’t appear to be buying it, telling De Telegraaf newspaper sarcastically: "They will probably be at the back.

"If I listen to them, Mercedes has had a shitty car since winter testing in 2016. No, I expect them to be competitive," the Red Bull driver added.

For Verstappen, it was plain sailing at the top of the timesheets, with Ferrari not far behind.

"Max is in a league of his own," Mercedes boss Toto Wolff admitted.

New Mercedes driver George Russell added: "We’re a long way off Red Bull and Ferrari’s pace.

"Even Alpha Tauri and Alfa Romeo are on our pace or even quicker. So yeah, we’ve got a bit of work to do."

Alfa boss Frederic Vasseur beamed: "It won’t stay like this forever.

"Eventually they will solve their bouncing problem."

Hamilton, however, is expecting a "longer term fix", because efforts so far to solve the problems mainly with excessive ’porpoising’ "haven’t really worked".

"We are not bluffing, as many people still believe," a Mercedes source told us. "We are eight tenths behind Red Bull and half a second behind Ferrari."

Some of Ferrari’s new advantage over Mercedes is thanks to the all-new engine - which is even powering the two Haas cars to within the top ten.

"That’s nice to see," Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto said, "but I think Mercedes still has some power in reserve.

"But even now it is clear that in the early stage of the season we will be competitive. What do I feel? Relief," the Italian admitted.

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