Lewis Hamilton says Mercedes have “a lot of problems” ahead of the Formula 1 season opener in Bahrain and thinks they could struggle to challenge for victory in the “first four races at least”.
Mercedes have made significant changes to their W13 car ahead of the 2022 season and were behind Red Bull and Ferrari in testing.
Both Hamilton and new team-mate George Russell have voiced concerns about the car, mostly regarding the aerodynamics and structural alterations.
“The testing has been difficult,” Hamilton, who will be looking to win back the title from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, said at the 2022 Dubai Expo.
“It’s crazy because, years ago, we used to have a lot of test days and now we only have, literally, three days in the car altogether? So it’s not a lot of laps.
“When we go into this race, this week, we’re still learning about the car – we probably will be for the first four races at least. We’ve got a lot of problems. As you have seen, everyone is bouncing up and down.”
The problem has arisen because of new regulations this season which change the way the airflow passes through and around the cars. The result has been cars – and drivers – bouncing down the straights.
Russell said the Mercedes is not the “comfiest” to drive and Hamilton says both drivers are feeling the strain.
“It’s interesting, because I was worried that, you know, I’m 37 now, so I’m racing against George, he’s only 24, right? But he had problems and he was feeling it in his back. So it’s not just an age thing!”
Despite concern over the car, Hamilton says he is “hyped” to try and improve it with his team.
“The great thing, right after this, I have a conference call with all the guys back in Brixworth, talking about the engine, about driveability, about how we can get more power out for this week,” Hamilton said.
“Then I have another conference call with all the engineers up at Brackley, on how we can push this car forward, how we can stop it from jumping, how we can extract all the performance for it.
There has been some scepticism over whether Mercedes are overplaying the potential problems with their car.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz isn’t buying Mercedes pessimism and suggests they are knowingly playing down their chances.
“It’s typical Mercedes, typical George, hype up the others and then come to the first race and blow the competition away,” the Spaniard said.