Mercedes gave its W12 car a first on-track run on Friday at the Bahrain International Circuit, but slumped to the bottom of the mileage chart after a challenging day.
Valtteri Bottas lost the majority of his morning after a gearshift issue discovered on his installation lap forced Mercedes into a gearbox change. The Finn completed just six laps in total.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton took over for the afternoon, but after losing time due to the team’s workload during the lunch break, he suffered a further setback when a balance issue was discovered.
Hamilton ended the day 10th fastest, with Bottas 14th, and Mercedes completed just 48 laps – 91 laps shy of mileage leader Red Bull – leaving the team well behind in its testing programme.
“It’s been a poor start to the season from us today,” said trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin.
“We lost more or less the whole morning with Valtteri with a gearbox problem and our workload over lunch meant we were late joining the afternoon session with Lewis.
“Once we got running it was clear we didn’t have the car in the right balance window and while we made some progress during the day, we’re not happy with how the car is performing and it’s pretty clear we have some work to do.
“We’re quite a way behind on our test programme and need to find a bit of balance and speed but we have two days left and every opportunity to recover the situation.”
Reigning world champion Hamilton accepted that it “wasn’t the cleanest of days” for Mercedes, but tried to find some positives.
“These things are sent to try us,” Hamilton said. “Everyone has worked extremely hard to get us here. We had that mishap in the morning which was very unfortunate for Valtteri in terms of losing time on track and the team is working hard to try and understand what that was.
“We have no choice but to take the positives. I remember in 2007 during testing I had 10 days in the car and now it’s getting less and less.
“We only have a day and a half in the car before the first race, with different tyres and different aero modifications so it’s not easy but it’s the same for everyone.
“I’d like to think my nine years’ experience with this team will help me get the best out of it.”
Hamilton had a number of off-track excursions through the second session as all drivers struggled with low grip after a sandstorm hit the Bahrain circuit.
“I’ve never seen a sandstorm come through here before in all the years that I’ve driven at this circuit,” Hamilton said.
“The sand was moving like rain would move. Having sand on the tyres isn’t good for their longevity and getting consistency on long runs is difficult.
“Over a single lap it isn’t the worst, but you need lots of laps at this time of year to get data.”