Mercedes hamstrung by reliability problems in Bahrain

Mercedes was down more than half a second per lap in terms of car performance in the Bahrain Grand Prix due to reliability issues, according to team principal Toto Wolff.

George Russell qualified third and Lewis Hamilton ninth after having been quickest in FP2 in Bahrain, and were both optimistic about their potential race pace. Saturday night’s grand prix saw Ferrari emerge as the closest challenger to Red Bull though, with Russell slipping to fifth place and over 45 seconds adrift of Verstappen, but Wolff says car problems accounted for the majority of the deficit.

“For us testing was pretty good and the performances on Thursday and Friday were encouraging,” Wolff said. “The car was stable and good and the drivers liked it. Start went fine, and then unfortunately we had to start cooling the engine more than we expected. We don’t understand yet where that came from.


“That was unexpected, and then from then on when you have to switch 0.3-0.4s of power-unit performance off and have to lift and coast, it was all together 0.5-0.6s that we couldn’t take from what the car had in it, and therefore it wasn’t great fun.”

Even with that explanation, Russell would still be over 15 seconds off the race-winner. Wolff admitted Verstappen appears set to be very hard to beat at most venues.

“I think [in Bahrain] Max is not in a different league but he’s in a different galaxy, the performance is extraordinary,” he said.

“The group of Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes we are probably in a similar ballpark and we just need to look at ourselves, get on top of our problems and if we are able to manage our race weekend better, we will be racing those guys.

“In qualifying, we were pretty close together. That was good, and I believe our performance was masked by our problems. [Sergio] Perez is 20 seconds behind his teammate, so we have hope. That is maybe the silver lining I can see, but it is very thin and far away and I almost can’t see that far.”

On whether a similar season could be on the cards compared to 2023 – when Verstappen won a record 19 of 22 races – Wolff said: “Unfortunately, yes. Just have to acknowledge his performance levels are really strong.”

Story originally appeared on Racer