Lewis Hamilton fears Mercedes have ‘a lot of problems’ and could struggle

Lewis Hamilton has warned fans that Mercedes might need a few races this season before their cars can challenge for victories.

The Briton has claimed the Silver Arrows are expecting a slow start to the season as they have "a lot of problems" to solve. He went on to suggest that he and George Russell might not be able to challenge for wins in the "first four races at least".

Mercedes were behind both Red Bull and Ferrari in terms of lap times during testing, though those figures are not a reliable indicator for performances as teams were trialling different setups over the three days. Having won eight constructors' championships in a row, they are expected to be in the hunt again in 2022.

However, the team made significant changes to its car between unveiling it and taking part in a shakedown in Barcelona, before official pre-season testing in Bahrain. Both drivers have spoken negatively about the car, citing concerns about its aerodynamics.

"The testing has been difficult," Hamilton said during a visit to Expo 2020 Dubai. "It's crazy because, years ago, we used to have a lot of test days and now we only have, literally, three days in the car altogether? So it's not a lot of laps.

"When we go into this race, this week, we're still learning about the car – we probably will be for the first four races at least. We've got a lot of problems. As you have seen, everyone is bouncing up and down."

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That "bouncing" he was referring to is the 'porpoising' phenomenon from which every team has suffered to some degree in recent weeks. The effect has been caused by aerodynamic changes brought in as part of a set of new technical rules aimed at enabling closer racing.

What happened during testing was that drivers were bouncing up and down at high speeds, particularly on straights. Mercedes were one of the teams most affected, and Russell revealed that the current car is not the "comfiest" to be behind the wheel of.

"It's interesting, because I was worried that, you know, I'm 37 now, so I'm racing against George, he's only 24, right? Hamilton said on the issue. "But he had problems and he was feeling it in his back. So it's not just an age thing!"

Hamilton's cautious words about the start of the season echo those from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. The Austrian used his pre-weekend notes to warn fans that the team isn't exactly sure where it stands compared to rivals, and therefore cannot make predictions about how competitive the drivers will be in Bahrain this weekend.

"It's hard to say exactly where we'll fit in the competitive order this weekend in Bahrain, but that's what makes this new season and new era so exciting," he wrote. "It's a clean slate for everyone and all to play for.

"Like we always say, what we love about F1 is that the stopwatch never lies – and we will get our first understanding of the competitive truth on Saturday in qualifying. I'm excited to see what the weekend has in store."

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