Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was left “puzzled” by just how poor the handling was in his Mercedes car during race simulations that took place ahead of the Grand Prix in Bahrain.
Bottas was the fifth fastest driver overall, 0.371s slower than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Over the course of the race, Bottas could be heard communicating with his team and he seemed far from happy. “It’s undriveable,” he uttered in the latter stages of FP2.
The Mercedes W12 has come in for a fair deal of criticism during pre-season testing. Many speculated that the team is only sandbagging ahead of the season-opener in Bahrain, but that no longer looks to be the case.
Bottas, however, felt the team has at least made some improvements since then.
“First of all, it felt better than in testing, in terms of how the car was feeling, etc. so that’s good, but it also felt like we’re not quite there yet with the car balance,” Bottas said.
“At least it was a trouble-free day, with no big issues, but now the main thing is my mind is that we still have plenty of work to do if we want to fight for the pole and for the win.”
On his radio message, Bottas accepted that the car had been quite inconsistent.
“Yes, the last long run we did was pretty inconsistent,” he said.
“I couldn’t really put any laps together as the car was, as I said, undriveable at times. A bit puzzled but it’s Friday and that’s why we practice.
Meanwhile, reigning Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton came in third position during the second session.
He also agreed with Bottas’ assessment that the car had made some gains, but is also wary of the fact that Red Bull looks like the team to beat so far.
“This weekend it’s looking better but still not perfect,” Hamilton said.
“So we are just working as hard as we can. We’ve got great people in the background like Rich, who is always so efficient with setting up the wings and I’m always just amazed by the work he is doing back there.
“I know we still have a hill to climb but we’re staying positive.”
Hamilton conceded that while Red Bull was fast, he expected them to perform better. He also had some positive words to say for his former team McLaren, who had a good day out in Bahrain.
“We thought Red Bull would be as fast as they are, if not faster,” Hamilton said.
“So we know they are leading at the moment. McLaren are looking great and it’s great to see them taking a step.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the long runs are.”