After a disastrous start for the reigning world champions, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admits alarm bells did ring in Bahrain on day two of Formula One’s pre-season testing.
On Friday, Valtteri Bottas managed just six laps after encountering gearbox issues. It meant the team spent the majority of the morning replacing it, which meant they lost out on crucial track time.
The test this season is shorter too. Last year teams had six days, the year before eight, so any track time lost is a huge blow ahead of the start of the season.
They had hoped Saturday would be smoother, however Lewis Hamilton ran into his own issues after losing control of the car in the morning session and ending up in the gravel, bringing out the red flag.
To add to their woes, Aston Martin, a customer team of Mercedes, also suffered problems with their gearbox, raising more concerns.
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Speaking with Sky Italy, Wolff said: “This year we had a horrible start, as opposed to the last years. We are not fast, we have reliability problems, but it’s a situation in which we have to prove our ability to react.”
He continued: “Yes, it scares me. We did not change the design of the gear and we saw two problems. All these things are an alarm not only because we risk not to finish the race but also for the costs.”
Hamilton’s rare mistake on Saturday morning meant the team lost more track time, albeit a short amount.
Speaking after the session, Hamilton said: “Today the wind I think did a 180 so the track is a lot different today and there are some places you can push where you couldn’t push yesterday. And it’s very gusty, as I found out into Turn 13.
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“The rear doesn’t feel particularly great with this new regulation change, but we’re trying to find the sweet spot.”
When comparing the two days, he added: “It pretty much felt the same, not really much different today.
“I think the track feels a little bit better so the balance was perhaps slightly better, but we’re still working through certain things.
“We have less mileage than some of the others like the Red bulls so far, but we’re just trying to stick to our programme and manage the amount of laps.
“It’s day two of testing so we’re just focused on doing our job. We’re focused on trying to understand the car, there’s no point being worried just yet.
“I think everyone’s focusing on their programmes and that’s what we’re doing.”
Wolff however says he is not worried about Hamilton’s uncharacteristic mistake
“He’s not nervous and we are not nervous, but we have to understand what went wrong,” added Wolff.
“There are many new things that do not work. The balance of the car is the biggest problem.”