World champion Lewis Hamilton said Mercedes cars having trouble in the hot conditions is one reason why they couldn’t compete better with Ferrari at the Bahrain qualifier.
The Brit showed a near perfect lap when racing for the pole at the Australian grand prix earlier this year. But he struggled to replicate the same pace in the hot weather at the Sakhir track, while Ferrari made the best use of its performance to lockout the top row.
Hamilton believes the weaknesses seen in the W08 are reappearing in the new car and downplayed the importance of the ‘party mode’. The team is yet to find the right setup to extract better performance on the new Pirelli tyres in the hot conditions.
“I guess it ultimately proves everyone who said we had a party mode in the last race were wrong,” Hamilton said. “Ferrari have done a great job this weekend, they’ve got the pace, and it’s been a difficult weekend for me overall in general. I hope tomorrow I can turn it upside down.
“Ferrari are just quicker in general everywhere and been a bit better with their tyres. They always are in hot places like this. I think when we come to a hotter circuit often the gap closes a little bit because the Ferrari’s maybe have an upgrade, their engine mode is easily as good as ours. As you could see this weekend on the straights, they are just as quick if not quicker.
“When you get to a hot circuit, it’s really difficult to keep the temperatures low in the tyres and that’s something they’ve always been good at.”
Hamilton finished fourth in the qualifying race, behind both the Ferraris and teammate Valtteri Bottas. But the world champion will start from the ninth place in Sunday’s race since he has a five-place grid penalty due to a gearbox change.
In 2017, Mercedes had a front row lockout but Hamilton still lost the race to Vettel. This time around, he is starting from the back so it may prove to be harder to get a podium finish. But knowing Hamilton, nothing is impossible.