The Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team’s Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were forced to settle for second and third on the grid for the 2021 Formula One season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix which takes place on Sunday at the Sakhir circuit.
Lewis Hamilton set a time of 01:29.385s with the defending champion starting the race just behind pole-sitter Max Verstappen and speaking following the action he commented saying:
Max did a great lap, nearly 0.4 is a big gap so we have some work to do! The car was feeling good in Q1 and Q2, we took until the last minute trying to find the right set-up and it felt sweet. Just at the end I couldn’t get any more from it but still, it was exciting. I’m immensely proud of everyone. We’ve worked very hard over the last week to try and understand the package that we have. We made some steps forward but we couldn’t compete with that last lap Max did. P2 puts us in a position to cause Red Bull trouble tomorrow.
Speaking following the action, Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team Principal, CEO and co-owner Toto Wolff commented on the day of action saying:
We are very excited to have a real fight on our hands. Six different teams in the top ten today and it’s clear that simply being “good” will not be good enough this year. But in the final year of these regulations you need to push the needle further to not only beat Red Bull but also some of the other teams. It’s just what the doctor ordered!
Valtteri Bottas starts the race from third place with a qualifying time of 01:29.586s and speaking following the action the Finn commented saying:
Today was a lot better than testing. Throughout qualifying I was feeling more and more comfortable. At least we are closer to Red Bull than we were in testing. We have two cars to battle against one Red Bull tomorrow. I had to use two sets of tyres in Q1 so I only had one new set for Q3 which put me at a disadvantage. But starting from third at this track isn’t bad so I’m looking forward to it. Red Bull seem to have more stability, particularly in the wind. We have two cars in the top three so we can definitely still fight for the win.
Mercedes AMG PETRONAS F1 Team Chief Engineer Andrew Shovlin commented saying:
It’s disappointing at the first race to be looking at a 0.4s gap to pole but at least we know the performance we need to find going forward. It’s also no secret that we’ve been struggling with the car around this circuit; it’s nowhere near as easy to work with as the W11 but everyone in Brackley and Brixworth has been working hard since the test and we’ve learnt a lot about the W12 and found a more predicable balance, even if we’re lacking overall pace. We’d wanted to get both cars onto the medium tyre to start the race which we managed to quite safely. Valtteri was a bit compromised in the final session by having used an extra soft in the first session but overall, it was good effort by the team and drivers, and should put us in a strong position for tomorrow. It’s hard to read where we are on race pace from the Friday long runs as we didn’t land the car in the right window but we’re fairly confident we’ve improved the rear grip so it will be less of a handful in the race. We might not be on pole but we have two cars at the front and an extra set of the hard tyres, so hopefully we can create some opportunities from that.