Mercedes fear raised as Brundle talks ‘tension’ after Bahrain start

Horner opens up on Red Bull's 'barren spell' amid Mercedes dominance

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F1 pundit Martin Brundle believes there is tension at Mercedes after their poor opening to the 2023 season. Drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished P5 and P7 respectively at the Bahrain GP on Sunday, with the seven-time champion crossing the line a staggering 51 seconds behind winner Max Verstappen.

Both drivers and team principal Toto Wolff were extremely disappointed after the race and lamented the performance of the new W14.

The Austrian went as far to say that radical changes will be made, while Hamilton insisted upgrades were needed eas soon as possible. Russell even claimed Red Bull could win every race this season and Brundle was surprised to hear such negativity emanating from the Silver Arrows’ camp so early in the campaign.

“Lewis and Toto were openly expressing their disappointment at certain points of the weekend, and normally they only sing the praises of the teams at Brackley and Brixworth,” Brundle wrote in his first Sky Sports column of the year. “It must be tense at the team right now; the quality is there it just needs direction and oxygen to calm heads.

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“’Zero-sidepod concept’ is not the buzz phrase they’ll want to hear again, but the mantra from the team was that to change direction would necessitate a step backwards first, before working up and understanding a new philosophy of aerodynamics. George Russell has already said that he’s prepared to suffer that pain for longer term gain.

“They dogmatically turned the Mercedes into a late winning car last season, but I don’t see or hear the appetite for another year like that.” Mercedes have already admitted that their 2023 car concept is flawed after deciding to keep a similar design to the previous season.

Finishing third in the constructors’ championship in 2022, Mercedes struggled with pace and ‘porpoising’ issues throughout last season. While the bouncing now seems to have gone, the Brackley-based team do not appear to have progressed from the promising end to last season which resulted in a maiden F1 race win for Russell in Brazil.

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Explaining why this may be the case, Bundle added: “In the early phases of the hybrid era, they had such a hugely dominant power unit – they haven’t got that anymore. When the window was open to improve the power units, they lost out.

“They’ve also lost key people like Andy Cowell, James Vowles, and others, with James Allison also currently focused elsewhere. The remaining talent pool is immense, but it hasn’t gelled yet. And before changing the philosophy and architecture of a Formula 1 car you need to understand what you want and where you’re heading, which is especially difficult in the cost-cap era 23 race season.”

As F1 turns its attention towards the second race of the season in Saudi Arabia next weekend, Wolff is set to hold crunch talks with his staff this week to discuss how they can make improvements in a bid to be competitive this season.

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