Bahrain GP: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes bid for Ferrari race defeat
World champions admit they have been "massively outperformed in every single straight line" in Bahrain by Ferrari - but Hamilton hopeful they can still challenge in race; Bahrain GP begins at 4.10pm on Sky Sports F1 and Sky One
By James Galloway in Bahrain
Last Updated: 01/04/19 4:55pm
Mercedes believe Ferrari's straight-line speed has made the difference so far at the Bahrain GP - but Lewis Hamilton remains optimistic they can still challenge in Sunday evening's race.
Ferrari have rebounded from their crushing defeat to Mercedes at the Australian GP in emphatic style this weekend, finishing first and second in every practice and qualifying session in Bahrain.
Charles Leclerc took a maiden pole ahead of Sebastian Vettel on Saturday, with Lewis Hamilton heading an all-Mercedes second row behind, for a race which begins at 4.10pm live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky One.
"We've expected a fight and in Melbourne it went very much into our advantage. It came the other way around here in Bahrain," said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.
"With these new regulations and an understanding for the tyres, you might see these swings. There are teams that are outperforming this weekend who haven't done well in Melbourne and there are teams that aren't overperforming, us and Red Bull."
And it's on the Sakhir circuit's straights where Mercedes are seeing Ferrari simply pull away from them.
"In cornering performance there is not one corner that we don't gain," revealed Wolff. "We are losing almost five tenths on the straights."
And Hamilton told Sky F1: "I don't know where all of a sudden they've got this end of straight speed but they've all of a sudden picked up massive speed on the straights.
"I don't know if that's wing. We'd love to know."
When's the Bahrain GP on Sky F1?
Sunday's race underway at 4.10pm, Qualifying at 3pm - exclusively live on Sky Sports
Wolff said Mercedes needed to look at whether they had found the right balance in their own set-up.
"Straight-line speeds are always a combination of power and drag and that's why we need to try and understand what's happening," he added. "We have been massively outperformed in every single straight line.
"Have we missed something on how we calculated the downforce and drag levels?"
Can Mercedes challenge Ferrari for victory?
Although Ferrari have dominated the entire weekend to this point, their final qualifying advantage was the smallest it had been since the start of practice.
Mercedes also completed strong race runs on Friday in the similar cooler conditions of the Bahrain evening.
"Charles did an incredible job with his lap and I couldn't match that but we've made some real step forwards this weekend and I'm actually really happy with the turnaround and the closing of the gap," said Hamilton. "Probably second place was possible but I love that it's that close.
"I think it can be quite a close race between us. I'm happy it's as close as it is. You've got the start, and you've got strategy tomorrow. Hopefully it's going to be exciting for the fans."
Wolff added: "If you are able to stretch it in a one-stop strategy that can be very fast but on two stops there are a multitude of strategies when you look at the tyres teams have left, between mediums and softs.
"It will be very much learning on the job and see how far you can really stretch the initial stint."
Reaction to qualifying
Decent day in the office. Great work over night from the team and am happy with the progress we made. However, we have work to do so we will keep our heads down. Congrats to Charles on his first pole. Tomorrow could be fun for us all. Let’s go!!! pic.twitter.com/kiEijuq1ki— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) March 30, 2019
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