For years, Mercedes dominated Formula 1. But at the start of the new season, the long-term champion has problems. There is even talk of an “undrivable” car. And Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin is also weak.
Max Verstappen had an advantage of almost half a second in qualifying, and in the third free practice before it was as much as seven tenths. The Dutchman in the Red Bull has been leading in Bahrain so far. “The car is working really well this year, it’s a great start,” he said confidently after qualifying. The fact that Verstappen starts from pole position on Sunday is not just his own ability, but also the weakening of others.
Above all, Mercedes caused astonishment among Formula 1 fans. Because the Silver Arrows, which dominated events in the premier class of motorsport for years, had problems. “I couldn’t really collect laps and the car felt really inaccessible at times,” explained Valtteri Bottas after the first two practice sessions, but added: “But it’s Friday and that’s why we’re doing practice sessions.”
“Now the fight begins”
One day later it was at least enough for second and third place in qualifying. Team boss Toto Wolff didn’t really want to be happy: “I don’t know whether that is better or worse than expected, but any deficit is hard to bear,” quoted the 49-year-old in the “Motorsport Magazin”. At the same time, the Austrian remained aggressive: “I’m proud of the way we fought our way back from the test, that was suboptimal. Now the fight begins.”
But Mercedes’s problems raise questions. One of them is what the advantages of Red Bull are. World champion Lewis Hamilton sees them in the pace: “Of course we want to be first, but we knew from day one that Red Bull is faster than us.” Toto Wolff also praised the competitor’s work: “You did a great job. You delivered an extremely competitive power unit.”
Toto Wolff remains calm before the race in Bahrain. (Source: PanoramiC / imago images)
The conditions of the track would also suit Red Bull, says Wolff. “Bahrain wasn’t great last year either. Red Bull masters track layout and tarmac here better than we do. But that’s not an acceptable explanation: We have to do what we’ve been doing in recent years. Car, tires and everything optimize in order to be back in the race. ” That is the plan for the race on Sunday (from 5 p.m. in the live ticker at t-online).
Aston Martin puzzles
Sebastian Vettel is far less optimistic. The Heppenheimer had imagined his start in the Aston Martin differently. He was only able to leave the two Haas cars behind on Saturday. Starting position 18 is the reality for the former Ferrari driver.
“I got the yellow flag twice and then nothing worked,” said Vettel, “what would have been in it is difficult to say, but I could have been a second faster.”
For Sebastian Vettel, the start in the Aston Martin is still expandable. (Source: Motorsport Images / imago images)
Vettel and team-mate Lance Stroll, ultimately tenth in the qualification, hadn’t gotten going during training. After six years in the Ferrari, Vettel was still struggling with the new conditions. “Braking, steering, the way the car wants to be driven,” he said before the qualification: “I still have to get used to a few things.”
An upward trend could be foreseen, however, but Vettel was no longer able to implement it. “We had changed a few things, the car immediately felt better,” said Vettel: “We’re not where we want to be, but we’re making progress with every run. The learning curve is still steep.” A race to catch up should now succeed in the race: “We are faster than 18th place.”