Lewis Hamilton’s new Mercedes car ‘has no strengths’ compared to rivals Red Bull, according to trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin.
The frank admission puts into stark clarity just how the situation has changed this season as the Formula 1 champions now feel Red Bull has the upper hand in many areas.
Despite Hamilton’s fighting victory in Sunday’s dramatic season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Mercedes was behind its rivals on pace.
After looking into the data, Shovlin revealed: “We don’t have any strengths relative to them.
“We’ve had a lot of years where we’ve been able to rely on straight-line speed or high-speed cornering or interconnected corners, but you look at it here [in Bahrain] and we weren’t taking any time out of them anywhere.
“There were a couple of corners where they really took chunks out of us in qualifying. The high speed, also turns nine-10 they were very strong there. That’s the main thing.
“In qualifying, we were on their pace in our best corners and they were quicker in the others. We need a faster car, simple as that.”
Shovlin revealed that despite the elation of what he called “one of the best [wins] for quite a long time” the team had an immediate hour-long debrief with the drivers after the race, trying to work out how to improve the car.
Hamilton’s victory was down to a superior strategy that gave him track position in the closing laps of the race, and despite being hounded down, and at one point passed, by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, it was first blood to Mercedes in the end.
Shovlin added: “It is pretty quick that you get your head back down. We’re already back to the business of what we need to do better. It was Red Bull’s race to win.
“It’s definitely close [but] this is not alien to us and this is what we’ve got to work with. We’re two teams that seem pretty much neck and neck at the moment so it’s going to be a tough year.
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