The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team endured a difficult opening day of pre-season testing in Bahrain on Friday. The Brackley-based outfit missed out on track time in the morning due to a gearbox issue with the W12 and when they did get on track with Valtteri Bottas, the Finn completed just eight laps and ended the day in 17th place with a time of 01:36.850s and speaking following the action he said:

The whole team was looking forward to getting on track but on the install lap we noticed an issue with the gearbox so we had to localise the problem and change the gearbox which takes quite a bit of time. Only at the end of the morning session could we get back out for a few more laps before the red flag. A total of six laps for me, all with aero rakes on the car so not much running today and not an ideal start.

In recent years things have been pretty much bulletproof so it’s not a familiar experience. The good thing is that this year if you miss some running you can hopefully catch up because of the mileage limitation linked to the cost cap efficiencies. I am confident we can recover and I’m looking forward to two good days over the weekend.

Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top ten completing 42 laps with a time of 01:32.912s and speaking following the action, the seven-time champion said:

Today definitely wasn’t the cleanest of days that we’ve had but these things are sent to try us. Everyone has worked extremely hard to get us here. We had that mishap in the morning which was very unfortunate for Valtteri in terms of losing time on track and the team is working hard to try and understand what that was. I think they did a great job to turn the car around. The second session wasn’t without its challenges, but we exist to find solutions to the problems we’re faced with. We just had a good debrief and we’ll keep working away.

I’ve never seen a sandstorm come through here before in all the years that I’ve driven at this circuit. The sand was moving like rain would move. Having sand on the tyres isn’t good for their longevity and getting consistency on long runs is difficult. Over a single lap it isn’t the worst, but you need lots of laps at this time of year to get data.

We have no choice but to take the positives. I remember in 2007 during testing I had 10 days in the car and now it’s getting less and less. We only have a day and a half in the car before the first race, with different tyres and different aero modifications so it’s not easy but it’s the same for everyone. I’d like to think my nine years’ experience with this team will help me get the best out of it.

Chief engineer, Andrew Shovlin commented saying:

It’s been a poor start to the season from us today. We lost more or less the whole morning with Valtteri with a gearbox problem and our workload over lunch meant we were late joining the afternoon session with Lewis. Once we got running it was clear we didn’t have the car in the right balance window and while we made some progress during the day, we’re not happy with how the car is performing and it’s pretty clear we have some work to do. We’re quite a way behind on our test programme and need to find a bit of balance and speed but we have two days left and every opportunity to recover the situation.

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