Lewis Hamilton admitted he’s set his car up to optimise race pace for the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix after he qualified seventh behind Mercedes teammate George Russell.
Mercedes appeared downbeat after the first day of free practice in Bahrain but Hamilton said they’d improved overnight and insisted he wasn’t disappointed by the qualifying result.
Hamilton’s 2021 title rival Max Verstappen took pole ahead of Sergio Perez and the two Ferraris while Mercedes were over sixth-tenths behind the Dutchman.
“A lot of work happened overnight,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 after qualifying. “The engineers and everyone back at the factory did a great job and we made a step forward today so the car much much more alive this morning.
“And all the sudden we were in a different place today, but then when we got to qualifying, for me the car just didn’t feel alive, it felt kind of average.
“So I think the direction I go in setup will hopefully be much better tomorrow because I tried to set it up for tomorrow so it made it a little bit different in qualifying.”
In the 2022 Bahrain GP Hamilton qualified fifth but seven-tenths back from pole position but still finished on the podium in the race. And despite Mercedes suffering from porpoising they ended the season with a race win.
“We were six-tenths behind last year, we had bouncing so it’s not an impossible mountain to climb,” Hamilton added. “So that’s a positive and I know everyone back at the factory has been working so hard.
“We can definitely close that gap. We’ve just got to really focus and push like never before.”
Russell echoes Hamilton
Hamilton‘s Mercedes teammate George Russell also had more of an eye on Sunday’s Grand Prix after he qualified sixth in Bahrain.
“We made huge gains after Friday, yesterday, we were really off the pace and we did some really good work overnight,” Russell said.
“So generally speaking I’m happy, the car’s in a good place we just now need to focus on adding global performance rather than problem-solving.”
One surprise was the pace of Aston Martin. After topping the timesheets in FP2 and FP3 many expected Fernando Alonso to challenge for pole but he had to settle for fifth just four-thousandths ahead of Russell.
However, it’s still a huge improvement on Aston Martin‘s 2022 performance, and Russell thought Mercedes could take heart from that gain.
“They’ve done a really impressive job,” Russell added. “And it shows it’s possible to add a lot of performance I think.
“We recognize last year, we were completely in the wrong window and we’ve spent a long time getting ourselves to this position. Now I think we’re in a relatively good window, we just need to focus on adding performance.”