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Lewis Hamilton admits Mercedes are a long way off the pace in Bahrain

SAKHIR, Bahrain — Lewis Hamilton fears Mercedes will be a long way off the pace of its rivals at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after he finished Friday practice eighth fastest.

Fernando Alonso set the pace during Friday’s evening session in Bahrain, with Hamilton’s best effort 0.636s slower than the Aston Martin and 0.467s off reigning champion Max Verstappen in second place.

Hamilton’s pace with a heavier fuel load also looked disappointing relative to his competitors, with average lap times over a second off Verstappen’s pace using the same tyres.

“We found out we’re a long way off,” Hamilton said when asked what he learned from Friday’s practice sessions. “We kind of knew that a little bit in the [preseason] test, but it’s a big gap.

“Yeah, we just… I’m trying everything we can out there, it is what it is, we just have to work at it.

“I think I got the car to the best place I can get it setup wise, we’ll continue to tweak little bits here and there. But it’ll be small bits, which is milliseconds, not the closing of a gap of a second.

“Nonetheless we’ll keep our heads down tonight, go through the data, work and progress tomorrow. We’ve got to find out if there’s any way we can add performance tonight.”

Asked how Mercedes’ engineers saw the relative pace of the front running cars, Hamilton said he was more likely to be in a fight with Ferrari than Aston Martin, which he believes could be Red Bull’s closest rivals.

“I thought the Ferraris were second, but on the long run we’re quite close to Ferrari, it looks like Aston is second, then we’re between third or fourth. So we’re kind of where we are last year or a little bit further behind.

“It’s difficult for everybody, and not where anyone at the team wants to be, or where everyone at the team deserves to be because everyone works so hard and really is so courageous and thoughtful in their process but we’re just on the wrong track.

“So we’ve got to continue to graft a way and find a way to get ourselves on the right track, but we’re a long way off the guys in front.”

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