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Lewis Hamilton issues concerning Mercedes update on eve of Bahrain GP season-opener

Lewis Hamilton believes that Mercedes’ long-run pace is ‘nowhere near’ that of rivals Red Bull. The legendary Brit urged for caution on Thursday after a Silver Arrows one-two finish in FP2 at the Bahrain Grand Prix had the paddock dreaming of a blockbuster battle come race day.

Off the back of a relatively uneventful pre-season test the week prior, most expected Max Verstappen to flex his muscles and stamp his authority on the field when FP1 went green on Thursday. However, the Dutchman was left frustrated with the balance of his car, while his former title rival Hamilton enjoyed two strong sessions.

Mercedes’ true potential was on show during FP2 as Hamilton led team-mate George Russell on the timing screens, while Verstappen’s fastest time was only good enough to place him sixth in the order.

However, while some in the paddock were getting carried away, Hamilton kept his feet steadily on the ground. “FP1, we were surprised,” he told Sky Sports F1. “It was very very windy this morning, so it was a really difficult session I think for everyone. 

“The track was so different compared to last week. It was feeling okay, but we didn’t really know where we stood on the C2 tyre and then in this session [FP2], yeah, the car, we made some improvements over the session.

“It’s a shock to see us where we are, we’ll take it for now, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We need to keep our heads down, keep working on the setup to try and extract more. I think our long-run pace is nowhere near the Red Bulls for example and I think we were a lot closer, so we’ve got some work to do there.”

Russell was also quick to downplay Mercedes’ chances of causing an upset during Saturday’s Bahrain GP. Instead, the 26-year-old cited Aston Martin, McLaren and Ferrari as the Silver Arrows’ true rivals heading into the critical part of the race weekend.

“We’re not going to get carried away with ourselves,” he explained. “The qualifying pace looked really strong. We still need to try and understand why it was so good. We made some changes from the test and it exceeded our expectations but ultimately the long run pace, which is where it all happens, Max was still ahead of us.

“It was very close with Fernando [Alonso], Lando [Norris] and the Ferraris, and Lewis and I were very similar. We’ve got a real fight on our hands in race pace. As I said, we’re really pleased with the day. The car is performing really well but we’re not getting carried away.”

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