Lewis Hamilton has admitted Mercedes are on the “wrong track” alluding to the concept of the car after a difficult Friday at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Hamilton was over half a second behind Fernando Alonso in FP2 in Sakhir, which was the most representative session ahead of qualifying.
Mercedes have stuck with their slim sidepod concept and Hamilton says the overall car is very similar to 2022.
“On the long run we are close to Ferrari,” said Hamilton. “It looks like Aston Martin was second and we between third and fourth.
“So we are kind of where we were last year, if not a little bit further behind. So it’s difficult for everybody.
“This is really not where I think anyone in the team wants to be and certainly not where I believe everyone deserves to be because everyone continues to work so hard and really so courageous and thoughtful in the process.
“But we are just on the wrong track. So we have got to just continue to graft away and find a way to get ourselves on the right track. But right now, we are a long way off from the guys in front.
“I have to be hopeful. I think there was good progress through last year, but the gap wasn’t as big as it is now.
“So do I believe we can close the gap at some stage? Yes, but I think it’s quite hard with the concept we have.”
Hamilton has car in a good setup window
Mercedes had their worst season for a decade in 2022 with just one pole position and one victory, both from George Russell as Hamilton went winless for the first time in a Formula 1 campaign.
Although there is no bouncing from the W14, there appears to be a lack of outright downforce and they are likely to be outside of the podium places on Sunday.
Perhaps more worryingly, Hamilton revealed he has maximised the setup of the car, further suggesting the concept of his machine is the problem.
“We are a long way off,” added Hamilton. “We kind of knew that a little bit in the test. But it’s a big gap.
“I’m trying everything I can out there. It is what it is. We are just going to try and work at it.
“Red Bull are a second a lap faster on the long runs so we have got a lot to work on. I’ve got the car in the best place I can get it setup-wise.
“We will continue to tweak little bits here and there. But it’s going to be small bits here and there, which is milliseconds.
“It’s not going to be the the closing of the gap of a second. Nonetheless, we just keep our head down tonight, we will ll go through the data, will continue to work and try to progress tomorrow.
“We have got to try and find out if there’s any way we can add performance overnight.”