After the stuttering start in Bahrain, Mercedes has already announced a change in concept for its new Formula 1 car. “We’re just not good enough,” said team boss Toto Wolff after qualifying for the first Grand Prix of the year on Sky TV. “We’re still behind. We haven’t caught up, we haven’t improved. We have to go in a different direction.”

By its own account, Mercedes was already half a second behind world champion team Red Bull on one lap at the end of last season. In qualifying on Saturday, Max Verstappen secured pole position ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez. The Mercedes drivers George Russell in sixth place and record world champion Lewis Hamilton in seventh place were now more than 0.6 seconds behind the Red Bull leader.

“No Sacred Cows”

“There are no sacred cows. We have to decide which development direction we want to take in order to be competitive and win races,” emphasized Wolff. He sees even more potential at Red Bull than the racing team has shown so far. “They cruised around a bit,” said the Austrian about the performance in the hunt for the starting place. In his estimation, the world champion racing team probably didn’t want to show too much, so the lead seems “not too big”.

Hamilton is not at all happy with the new car. “For me, the car didn’t feel alive, rather average,” said the 38-year-old. “It’s not an impossible challenge that we have ahead of us and we can close the gap, but we have to be very focused and keep pushing.”