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Mercedes dialled out qualifying pace to boost Bahrain F1 race chances

Mercedes believes a less qualifying-focused set-up cost it a chance of battling Max Verstappen for pole position at Formula 1’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W15

Photo by: Erik Junius

However, the squad feels that moving away from the strong single-lap form that helped Lewis Hamilton and George Russell top Thursday practice was essential to give it a decent chance in Saturday’s race.

Russell showed the progress Mercedes had made with its car as he ended up qualifying third, three-tenths behind pole position man Max Verstappen.

Reflecting on the form, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has revealed that the team had changed the set-up overnight to move away from where it was on Thursday, after feeling that it was not in the best window over race run distances.

“We changed the balance of the car for a set-up that was less aggressive on the tyres for tomorrow's race, and probably we dialled out too much single lap,” he explained.  “That's why it wasn't going as good as yesterday.”

Asked by Autosport what the potential difference was, Wolff said: “Probably we could have had a car fighting Max, but I don't think [with that car] we could have fought Max tomorrow.

“Because it was so new, we shall see if the set-up direction we consciously went for is going to really have a positive effect tomorrow on the race car. And if not, we have another learning stint.”

One of the changes Mercedes made was lifting the car slightly, as the squad remained cautious of a repeat of the plank disqualification that marred last year’s United States Grand Prix.

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Sir Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W15

Photo by: Mark Sutton

“We were a bit too low on the ride,” he said. “And obviously, there is a bit of a trauma in our place, after Austin, that we would rather with a new car be a little bit more on the conservative side.”

Hamilton, who qualified ninth, felt that he moved much further away from the Thursday set-up than Russell, although he hopes it is a move that will pay dividends on Saturday.

"Yesterday, George and I were identical car set-ups, and the car was really great,” said Hamilton. “And we veered off: he went one way, and I went the other. You could say that the one I was on is not good on the single lap. I hope that it's good in the race!

"I wasn't comfortable with my race pace. And so I changed the car to hopefully make the race pace better. But we'll see tomorrow if that is really the case.

“Trying to find a good balance because the race pace, lots of degradation with the rears, and race pace is really everything here. Position counts as well."

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