Lewis Hamilton worry as Mercedes playing 'catch up' to Red Bull and Ferrari at Bahrain GP

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Russell was only quick enough for the fourth fastest in the first free practice session while running a set of soft tyres. Hamilton was down in seventh, also on the soft tyres, and three tenths down on his new Mercedes team-mate.

But crucially, Ferrari and Red Bull did their fastest laps on the slower edium tyres and were still quicker. Leclerc and Sainz were second and third in FP1, two tenths quicker than Russell on a tyre which is expected to be about six tenths slower.

Verstappen was also on par with Russell’s time despite also running the slower rubber. Andrew Shovlin, trackside engineering director at Mercedes admitted the Silver Arrows have “got to catch up” with the opposition.

Speaking to Sky Sports F1, he said: “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We have carried that on from the test into FP1 so continuing to do experiments.

READ MORE: Hill offers advice to Russell as doubt raised on Mercedes prospects

It comes just a week after Mercedes failed to make an impression on the timesheets in the final Bahrain pre-season test session. Hamilton even wanted his team would not be “competing for wins” in the opening part of the season.

Russell even admitted the performance “isn’t there” when asked about his car’s likely competitiveness. However, some of their rivals have warned Mercedes were likely hiding their true pace for when it really matters.

After the pre-season test session, Carlos Sainz said it was “typical Mercedes”  and warned they could still “blow the competition away”. Red Bull chief executive Helmut Marko has also warned he expects the Mercedes to go “boom” from the first race.



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